Monthly Archives: September 2008

Jillette vs Borg. Lookalike?

It hit me the other week when I saw a “documentary” about our Swedish Finance minister Anders Borg, how he resembles the American Bullshit hunter and Magician Penn Jillette. What do you think? Anders Borg really have stood out amongst the Swedish politicians, especially within the Finance area, with ponytail and ear-piercing. The documentary portrayed him as a person with strong opinions and somewhat of a “free thinker“. This too seems to remind me of Penn, the little I’ve seen of him through his program Bullshit! Penn his a famous successful entertainer, who doesn’t dare to share his views on things. Maybe Borg wanted to ride in the wave after Penn?

Penn Jillette Anders Borg

Penn Jillette - Anders Borg

Wario on Wii shakes up Youtube

When it comes to marketing and reach out with your message, its almost always good to stand out. When a media or channel becomes the norm or mainstream for every company to use regularly peoples take for granted that’s how companies will try to speak to us. For example, Youtube have become a great tool for businesses and companies to upload and distribute videos, whether they are commercials or other informational material. And for games, music and movies, its almost standard protocol to upload clips and promotional material there. We, gamers and most people take for granted that sites like Youtube let you find everything when it comes to video recorded clips. And when the hype settles down and everyone is online, the next hard phase comes into play, to distinguish yourself form the masses. Not only does your material have to be interesting, sometimes it requires that little extra to attract peoples attention and interest.

And this special Wario youtube site is exactly that! Just check it out:

http://www.youtube.com/experiencewii

Mixing busniess model for the future of Games

People in the game industry often debate and argue over which new business model(s) will be the most successful one. A tricky question with, according to me, not a one single answer. Here’s a short overview of the different models, some bigger than others:

  • Free to play Games that are free, you don’t pay anything. This models is often supported by the ad-model, or microtransactions to generate revenue.
  • Ad supported (Website ads and in-game ads) – Tied to the model mentioned above. Ether the ads are placed within the game, loading screens or around the game on the site the game is hosted.
  • SubscriptionsYou subscribe to play the game. This model come in different types. Ether you can pay a monthly set price to get access and play many games (portals), or for just one game (MMO).
  • Classical – You pay for the whole game, one time cost.
  • EpisodesThe game is developed and released in smaller bits. You pay less for each episode, but the total sum usually sums up to a full game.
  • Microtransactions/Micropayment – Biggest market for those games today is Asia were its standard for MMO games. You don’t have to pay to access and play the game, but you can “buy” items for your character. Cosmetic or upgrades items.
  • RentalYou pay a small fee to rent the game for a couple of days or 2 weeks and then you have to return the game. And old classic model from the movie industry.
  • Digital Distribution Not so much of a new model, more a “new” way to sell and distribute games. You pay for the game and them you download it to your computer or console and it skip the whole physical disc, box and manual. This is also include a way for publishers and developers to easy release add ons.

When the movie and music industry have felt a decline in revenue, videogames experiences the opposite. The markets changing and companies need to follow, move or die. And if differs depending on geographical location, divided into west (US & Europe) and east (Asia). In today’s hectic west market many publishers and developers are looking to adapt to or mix these different models in hope of creating a steady business or an additional revenue stream. They view the success of microtransactions and free-to-play market, the dominate model in Asia and try to convert the west market. Despite a doubtful belief in the Free-to-play reputation concerning the quality of the games, many people and companies av strong faith in the model. Some see the problem to really monetize from free-to-play games, while some believe it to be the future, from a costrumer standpoint.

While many expert talk view the future for digital content lying in the Free-model, others might not be so optimistic. The Free-to-play model is often mix with other models to secure a steady revenue stream from somewhere. Someones have to pay! Usually its the Ad supported or micropayment, not to everyone’s liking, when some people worry about the affect this will have on the whole creativity process. But some argue that in-game advertising actually can help the developing process and strengthen the brand or product, and not to compare this to how advertisers have work with the television media.

And when developers worry about the creative process of developing games, publishers and retailers more often focus on the revenue, money aspect. Publishers have much power to decide with project to invest in, and therefore chose to try out different business model mixes and find out if it works. A clear example of this is the increasing focus on developing MMO, after the huge success of World of Warcraft, with its subscription based model. You buy the game, and in order to play you pay a monthly fee. This have brought Blizzard a ton of cash! Every businesses dream, a very steady income every month. But in order to keep paying costumer they have to spend some on costumer services and regular updates. This model how ever demands a game that is so good it will keep people playing for many many months/years. Subscription only work on everlasting games like MMO. For regular singleplayer focus games free to play or subscription becomes a bit more trickier.

For games with a average playtime of 10 to 20 hours, the best model often is the regular pay, own and play. As the game industry expand and find new audience and demographics, all the new business models find their places and fans. There isn’t one final model, rather everyone complement each other. And sometimes the best alternative is a mix between different business models. Always depending on the kind of game. Don’t just stir blind on one option, but find the right model for your business and the kind of game you wanna make to reach the right audience. Its always about the game you make, the creative process. And yes, you could try to fit a game into a special b-model, thou that’s risky business to try to force a creative product to adapt according to a certain way. And I thing we should focus on making great product, and maybe not invent the wheel all over again with every game, rather refine how we develop and distribute games to fit better into today’s digital climate.

And maybe not just focus on one model, but find ways to mix them in new interesting ways. One example I have thought about is a game like Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare, were the biggest part of the game basically is the online mode. People spend much of their play time online with this game. What if the developers (Infinity Ward) and publishers (Activision) released the game for free. You could download it and play the singleplayer campaign (which is very short) for free, but you had to pay a small amount for every month you spend playing the game online? Okay, this presuppose people want the game to play online, and that people like the game online to be ready to pay for the online mode.

I think the current divided market is great. It forces developers to thing in new creative ways to develop games and how to monetize on those ideas. The rise of new business model that complement each other, and adapt to how the market evolve. This debate is far from over, which model is the “best” one, but my mind is set. There can be one definite model, it just always comes down to what kind of game you want to create and who’s your target audience! Let the game decide, don’t develop the game concept and idea after a stated business model.

Game Business Model

Game Business Model

Mario Paint, still going strong since 1992

I remember the good old days (1992), when Super Nintendo was the greatest gaming console, and still is according to me. One of my friends had very… different game at that time, Mario Paint. With the game you got a computer mouse, specially made for the SNES and this game. Mario Paint was a compilation of games/applications. The big selling point and … point of the game was to paint. But there was another application we spent much time with and was a bit ahead of its time, a music composer. Through a simple interface and pre-recorded sound clips we could create our own goofy music tracks. It was a fun game, but I didn’t became a great music composer from it.

But now I’ve discovered this old game again. To playing and creating music, rather what others have done and composed with it. A simple search on Youtube on the phrase “Mario Paint”, generate a lot of results. The music composer tool with it sound clips have lived on through many retro gamers who recreated and distributed the application. And there seem to be a lot of fans out there composing remixes of famous songs and tracks, using this tool.

Today, music games have exploded in popularity and reached a broader demographic than traditional games. Guitar Hero and Rock Band are the big giants, and the new big feature they talk about and fans have been asking for new tools to compose songs and make playable gametracks from existing tracks. This is nothing new. In this aspect Mario Paint was way ahead of its time. Maybe not that advanced or realistic as many people would want, but it sure sounds cute. It wonderful to see how creative and passionate people are with this 16 year old tool, both to create their own tracks (sometimes with musicvideos created through… Ta dah! Mario Paint!) and making covers on big hits. The good old days.

Caramelldansen on Mario Paint
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Caramelldansen on Guitar Hero
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Daylight Robbery documentary

Last night a British documentary played on Swedish television and I missed it. Praise the internet!

The documentary is original showed on BBC and research were a hell lot of money when that were supposed restore and rebuild Iraq, but ended up in … American private and corporate pockets. A perfect timing. I’m about to finish the Shock Doctrine and this very subject is discussed right now, how greedy American companies stole money instead of rebuilding a whole country. A important subject! To enlighten people about this so more people and governments actively oppose this unethical and immoral behaviour and abuse on the smaller people and country’s. Its never okey to cleanse or destroy a whole society for profit!

I’ve never been specially found of political questions, but its been growing in the last weeks.

You can watch the documentary here.

Last week at Kelkoo

I’m now into my last week at Kelkoo. Most of the time I will spend to end and hand over all my work tasks to my replacement. I will miss my workmates, but its allways exciting with changes. Looking forward to start working at the new place.

“Winners” and “Losers”

At the moment the financial world is in a bit of Shock. Much thanks to the problems to US banks, Wall Street and the American housing market. We see how it affect all parts of the world, much here in Sweden too. I’ve never been much interested in the financial market or the economical world, but the Shock Doctrine have made me more perceptive to this complex net. And while this crisis affect many people in negative ways, there will always be “winners”. Every match have winners and losers. If we ignore the moral or ethical aspect, dispite how big the crisis become, some people or companies can use it to their to their advantage. Its horrible to see it that way, but its the sad truth.

A small personal example:

The company I soon will work for focus most on the American market, therby is dependent by the US curency. The higher value on dollar the bigger profit we will make, and this is true for all Swedish companies who export gods and services to the US.

On the other hand… If the dollar is low, I can save much money if I would like to buy or import products from say Amazon (which I do sometimes).

I want the dollar to be high so my new employer earn good money, at the same time I personally want it to be low if I import stuff. This is nothing new, but in the current darkness we must not forget that for some this open up great possiblities. In every situation, someone will always get a opportunity. I don’t believe in the old saying: “Everybody loses”. There is always two sides of a coin.

Virtual beer – a smash hit!

No doubt, the iPhone have taken the world by storm. Many newspapers and site use headlines like “iPhone-killler” when they report of new phones from other manufactures. Overall its a device with many functions and possibilities for new software. To really secure the future of the iPhone Apple just had to release a SDK for small and big companies to develop their own software, and a platform to release and distribute through. This have proven to be a big success for Apple.

And it have also been a success for some of the developers of the Apps. Like Swedish developer Illusion Labs, with their hit App game Labyrinth. It can be ether downloaded for free or you can pay and get the better version. And now they have a new free App called iPint, developed for the company Carling how is a beer producer. A sort of Advertgame that makes use of the iPhones accelerometer. The new company have received some good press lately, specially for iPint.

Many see this new platform as a great new way for marketers to work with for their new products and brands. To develop new, easy, cheap and funny advertgames/applications that will create great buzz. Instead of old dusty static ads, companies and agencies can create new innovative and interactive applications and games. I’ve seen some news and text about mobile marketing, which is basically displaying ads when people surf through the mobile. But this is a new way to work with mobile marketing, to truly leverage the potential in the phone to build a brand and or make good money directly.

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Christianity vs Spore

Now, religion is a very tricky subject, due to the fact that some people take it way to seriously. They often view themselves to highly and right in every question. Christianity as the biggest religion in the west is a great example of this. Way to often I hear about Christians (Also include people of other faiths) that doesn’t respect people for believing in other gods, religions or simply not believing at all. I have a simple rule: if religions people respect my atheism, i will respect their choice to have faith in something.

In recent years a “war” have bloomed in the US between Evolution theory and Creationism. And on this one I stand on the Evolutions side. Creationism, just a word to  make religion sound more like a science and less like the bullshit it really is. Especially when there are Christian fundamentalists in the White House, controlling the most corrupt country in the world.

Anyway… now Christians have a new nominee for the “Satan of the year” award, Will Wright and his new game Spore. A new site, dedicated to raise the question and point out all the “evil” Spore stands for, AntiSpore.com have been launched by a anonymous Christian American woman as a part of her crusade against Will Wright, Electronic Arts and Spore. I read all her posts and wasn’t surprised really, only still fascinated by her ignorance and disrespect for freedom of expression, Evolution and peoples right to have different opinions. I get really mad by such idiots justification of their own believes. Her complaint and main issue seems to be that this game will teach kids a non-religious way of viewing the world and its birth, aka Evolution! Christians have protested that schools teach Evolution to kids, and claimed that the Bible should be the only source to explain our origin, which is very very wrong! Its important to learn kids to hear many versions and then let them decide which they want to believe. And learn kids to be more natural critical.

Whats even more interesting is to see all the comments she received for each of her few posts. Many not so good comments, but it sure show how engaged people are in this question. Like I said, religion is a secure way to stir up some provocation and reactions. And I think this is just the beginning for the Cristianity against Spore.

[Update] Games that legitimately have to be baned or criticized are those who intentionally want to provoke people with faith. Like Muslim Massacre. I think it would have been more appropriate if they had called the game Taliban Massacre.

Comic Spore Will

Just a personal note; I’m furious that our Norse mythology have such a bad reputation in Sweden. Here we have a problem that many Nazi and new-Nazi are being associated with Norse mythology, since those people often wear cloth and jewelry linked to our Viking gods and heritage. I’m very angry for this, cause its our heritage and we should be proud of it!

Corporate Whistle Blowing – Youtube style

I would take a eternity to count all the great stuff internet have contributed to and eased peoples lives. Both personally and business wise. Whistle blowing have always been associated with big risks, for all parts. The companies doesn’t want their personnel to leak things that could harm the company and create bad PR. The person blowing the whistle is pretty much guaranteed to lose his job and get a bad reputation for future jobs. But with internet at almost everyones disposal this have become much easier, “secure” and fun! At least this video (which is very very very inspired after the weekly Zero Punctuation game review, be sure not to miss it!).

It will be interesting to see if Game Stop will some how respond to those accusations.

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