Archive for the ‘Video Game Business’ Category

Freemium Cash

okay.  i’ll be the first one who says it:

we all know that freemium games pwn subscription games as far as subscribers.  this is what you don’t know yet:  before the end of the year ’09, runes of magic will announce they’ve also pwnt all of the subscription-based games’ revenue numbers — wow excepted, of course.

whew.  glad to get that off my chest.


World of WARGloat

back in september, i seem to remember making a bold statement about how, in order to be successful, war didn’t get to “opt out” of competing with wow despite whatever mark jacobs has to say.

in fact, i have here, documented, a friendly wager with my friend voorshwa.

oooh! i smell a wager!

i say: by april of next year, war has fewer than 200k subs.

the bet will be the loser pays the other one’s fantasy football dues next season. (*sigh* my draft this year evidently sucked…)


so, now, i introduce my plan to win that wager…

step 1:

October 10, 2008

Mythic Entertainment, an Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: ERTS) studio, today announced that 750,000 players have registered for the critically acclaimed fantasy MMORPG, Warhammer® Online: Age of Reckoning® (WAR) in North America, Europe and the Oceanic territories.

step 2:

February 03, 2009

Warhammer® Online: Age of Reckoning®, an MMO from EA’s Mythic Entertainment studio, ended the quarter with over 300K paying subscribers in North America and Europe.

step 3:


step 4:

April 01, 2009


sounds like a plan to me.


Digital Rights Backfire

for those of you who’ve been living in a cave, spore’s got itself some hellacious drm.  there’re rumors it’s so bad it rewrites your dvd drive’s drivers, it installs a rootkit and probably even purposefully throws out a bsod for good measure.  i hear it’s so bad that it even kills kittens!

anyway, pc gamers of course hate, hate, hate this.  duh.

but the funniest part?

Ironically, the game was leaked several days before the official released date and a quick search seems to indicate that pirated copies, along with mechanisms for bypassing the copy protection mechanisms, are freely available on the Internet. So it seems that the copy protection schemes only inconveniences legitimate customers.

so, by trying to prevent piracy, they’re driving legitimate users to pirate their games because pirates make a better product — one that’s not wrapped in malware.

please take note:  drm doesn’t stop anything.  and, the money you save by kicking your legitimate customers in the collective groin, you lose because you pay to get them on a first-name-basis with your technical support people.  meanwhile, pirates are still pirating your game.

and they’re doing it with possibly with even more bile and determination because YOU threw down the “screw you pirate!” gauntlet.



WAR Success

this was originally a comment on mark’s new blog.  it was getting a bit verbose, so i just thought i’d turn it into a full post.  hate when that happens.

if war is to succeed, you have a few real issues to overcome:

1) people (any substantial number anyway) have room for one monthly sub.  plain pure fact.  that means you don’t get to be “second choice” for anyone.  you have to be the only choice for your subscriber base.

2) because of the network effect, war will not only have to be better than wow, but much, much, much better with lots more content — right outta the gate. and, it will need to sustain the “lots more content” continuously and forever.

the one and only one instance off the top of my head where someone has successfully done that is facebook to myspace. the features and quality bar difference between the two were not iterative. they were not evolutionary. they were revolutionary.  because of facebook, we now have game developers targeting facebook as a platform.

3) yes.  you have to “beat wow.”  see #1.  if you have a monthly sub and aren’t trying to beat wow, you are simply setting yourself up for failure.  if you were serious about not caring about beating wow, you’d be releasing a free game.  the reason being because people (again, in any substantial numbers) won’t have two paid subs.  that means you either need to allow for people to play your game in addition to wow (meaning it’s free) or you have to take wow’s subscribers — aka beating wow.

4) you’re not just competing with wow.  you’re also competing with free.  you have to convince people beyond the first free month bump that your game is not only better (see #2) than wow, but it’s several orders of magnitude better (not simply better) than something like requiem — which is free and high quality.  not to mention something like runescape which is both free AND has over a million subs.

i wish you luck, sir.


Lawful Good Human Fighter

in celebration of d&d 4e hitting the streets.

You Are A:

Lawful Good Human Fighter

Lawful Good characters are the epitome of all that is just and good. They believe in order and governments that work for the benefit of all, and generally do not mind doing direct work to further their beliefs.
Humans are the ‘average’ race. They have the shortest life spans, and because of this, they tend to avoid the racial prejudices that other races are known for. They are also very curious and tend to live ‘for the moment’.
Primary Class:
Fighters are the warriors. They use weapons to accomplish their goals. This isn’t to say that they aren’t intelligent, but that they do, in fact, believe that violence is frequently the answer.
Secondary Class:

Detailed Results:
Law and Chaos:
Law ----- XXXXXXXX (8)
Neutral - XXXX (4)
Chaos --- XXXXXX (6)

Good and Evil:
Good —- XXXXXXXX (8)
Neutral – XXXX (4)
Evil —- (0)

Half-Elf – XXXXXX (6)
Elf —— XXXX (4)
Gnome —- XXXX (4)
Halfling – XXXXXXXX (8)
Dwarf —- XXXXXXXXXX (10)
Half-Orc – XXXXXXXXXX (10)

Barbarian -XXXXXXXXXXXXX (13)
Ranger — XXX (3)
Monk —– (-1)
Paladin — XXXXXXXXXXX (11)
Cleric — (-1)
Mage —– XXXX (4)
Druid —- XX (2)
Thief —- (-7)
Bard —– XXXXX (5)

heh.  so telling! 

look at the class info.  at least there’s absolutely no ambiguity on whether or not i will beat your ass if you’re a badguy. 


I Like the Word Asynchronous

okay.  i wanna talk a little bit about where this whole web+games thing is going.  and, when i say games, i really mean synchronous activities in virtual worlds.  after all, aren’t games about people playing together?  isn’t playing together generally a synchronous activity?

so, i guess where i’m going is that there’s this convergence happening.  it’s the crossroads of synchronous (games, virtual worlds, chat) and asynchronous (web, blogs, email) communication.  right now, the biggest poster boy for this convergence is twitter.

lemme explain.

if you ask anyone who doesn’t tweet (wow — that’s an unfortunate term) what twitter is, you get some variation of “it’s for people who like to post status updates about them doing everything from going to the bathroom to what they’re having for dinner.”  those folks don’t understand what twitter really is.

twitter, for the uninitiated, is a giant, a/sync, partially scattered, on-going conversation.  it’s like globally distributed chat where anyone can join the conversation.  i did the “a/sync” thing because, in practice, twitter is asynchronous since you’re basically posting to the web, however, in terms of usage, it’s synchronous.

for example, raise your hand if you’ve heard the stories of twitter beating the usgs to the earthquake news in china.

it’s a giant pool of global — and i really mean global — real-time chat.

now, before all of you twitter pros nod off, here’s where i’m going with this: there’s going to be a twitter-like convergence between virtual worlds (aka mmos) and the web.  and not the kind you’re thinking of.

this is not — i repeatnot necessarily going to mean playing wow in a browser.  as cool as that would be, it’s really just a shoe-horn fit, i think.  it’s fantastic (beyond awesome, actually) for accessibility, convenience and acquiring new players, but i’m of the opinion that once people are hooked on the service, they’d like both a dedicated, sexy client to play in (say, from home) as well as a thin, portable web-based client to play in.  (*looks over shoulder* shhhhh… from work, for example.)

“that’s neat and all, but… duh!  ever heard of habbo hotel, noob?” you say.

stay with me for a minute here.  trust me.

one of the things that third party applications and services are doing for twitter is posthumously rebuilding conversations for others to follow, catch up on, or in any other way use that data.  they take data that was being generated in real-time (ala synchronously) and assemble it for asynchronous consumption.  so that, for every 5 people who were able to participate in the conversation in real-time, there could be 500 people who can play catch up and get engaged in the conversation later on.

follow what i’m saying?  there’s basically a long tail for synchronous communication.  you know what another name for that is? storytelling.

yes.  the convergence between virtual worlds and the web is going to be about storytelling.  and not just any old storytelling.  automated, threaded, and collaborated storytelling.

in other words, real-time twitter conversations are to gameplay as next-day twitter conversations are to storytelling.  it’s an asynchronous reassembly of originally synchronous content.

now, more on how this ties in to the term “social media” later….


Music is a Service. Not a Product.

okay.  been a while since i ranted….  here comes.

tami mentioned to me the other day about how prince was getting paid $4+ million to play at coachella the other weekend.

i said, “amen!”

now, some people may think that’s a little excessive to pay a musician that much.  i say, dammit, it just puts artist demand in perspective.  i’ve bickered with people before about how an artist’s recorded music is a promotional device and not a product to be sold.  i firmly believe that.

it’s only been in the last 60 years where the “music industry” has duped musicians into thinking that they’re all “rock stars!” and to start believing that they don’t have to play music to get paid.  and recording music is totally different than playing music, i might add.

for thousands of years, musicians actually had to do this horrendous thing called “performing” to get paid.  now, just because some powerful lobbyists have tricked everyone into thinking that just because someone spends a week in a studio once every few years, they deserve money — we need to pay them to listen to their music.

shit in one hand.  demand in the other.  see what you have at the end of the day.

there’s a reason that since the dawn of man, musicians have been performing music.  (doh!  there, i go again.  using the p-word!)  that’s because it’s a viable business model.  recording something, duping it infinitely for damn near free and then charging $18 for it?  i’m surprised there hasn’t been an riaa executive lynching yet!

does anyone out there know how much it costs to stamp out discs from a glass master?  pennies!  yes, pennies per disc!  even with packaging and sleeves and the whole nine yards, production for cds are < $1 per disc at scale.

so, the artist, gets pennies.  the discs cost pennies to make.  where does all that money go?

duh!  marketing and distribution!  you know, the stuff that is super-duper cheap on the internet. 

note to upcoming musicians:  there is such a hunger for new music, that if you’re good, you will succeed.  if you suck?  well.  just stick to doing it for fun because you’re not going — and don’t deserve — to make a living at it.

arg!  so.  now that i’ve gotten my take on the current state of the music industry out of my system, let’s talk about performance.

you know, my wife and i usually get season tickets every year to the philharmonic.  here it is, 100 some-odd people playing music for an audience and getting paid for it.  not whining about bittorrent.  not spending a few days in a studio and then resting on their laurels for the next year.

they’re working.  they’re playing music.  they’re getting paid.  not as much as prince, mind you.  or most of them even enough to live on. 

therein lies the trick.

just because you get paid to play music doesn’t mean you deserve to make a living doing it.

hell, i love painting.  i’ve even sold paintings to galleries before.  i’ve done work for hire before.  in short, i’ve gotten paid to paint.  do i do it for a living?  nope.  i’m not good enough.  do i whine when other people use images of my paintings somewhere else?  nope.  (dude!  free publicity for me!)  do i care?  nope.

i don’t think i deserve to be making a living painting.

not with how much i do it.  now, if i was scheduling several murals a week and taking payment for them, sure.  that’s called working for a living.  call me a sellout, but: you do work.  you get paid.  it’s called a service industry.

do i paint a wall and then demand money from everyone who looks at it?  no.  that’s the stupidest thing i’ve ever heard!

should someone record a song and then demand money from everyone who hears it?  no.  that’s the stupidest thing i’ve ever heard.

making a living through music is work for hire.  period.

  • if you’re a musician, you get paid to play.
  • if you’re a technician, you get paid by a musician to mix his music.
  • if you’re a promoter, you get paid by a musician to promote his music.

this whole “downloading music is theft!” crap has to end.  it’s stupid and flies in the face of thousands of years of human history.  not to mention, it’s not even theft!  plenty of people make plenty of money making music.  just ask prince.  or trent reznor.  or the guy who played on stage last weekend.  or the guy who was dj’ing at the club last night.

welcome to work by the hour, musicians.  you know, like it’s been throughout the entire length of recorded history.


The Kid Movie Mess

as everyone knows, i’ve got these two curtain climbers running around the house.  since we can’t play legos or trains or star wars all the time, sometimes they just watch a movie or two.  (not more than an hour or two a day, tho — that passive stuff rots your brain)  and, well…  like any parent in this day and age, we have a crap-ton of kid’s dvds that get handled by people <=4 years old.

that means scratches.  that means misplacement.  that means irritation.

for example, only 8 or so of the 15 baby einstein dvds will still actually play in a dvd player.  and then, only if it’s a REALLY forgiving one.  (stupid, picky sony dvd players!)  like how the beginning of monsters, inc. is completely hosed.  and our aladin disc, one of my top-5 favorite movies of all time, doesn’t play at all.

in the days of vhs, parents didn’t have to worry about that stuff.  vhs movies are sturdy and unbreakable in their hard-plastic shell.  as a kid, you could just about stack them up to build stairs in order to climb up and reach the vcr.


i figured with my kid’s affinity towards all things digital — the computer, my 360, cameras, you know: the usual — it was time to start ripping all the kids’ dvds.  little did i know it’d take about 3 weeks to figure it out!  good lord….

okay.  i shouldn’t say 3 weeks to figure out how to do it.  i should say 3 weeks to get the x264 options and production pipeline just right.  my requirements:

  1. it not look like ass.  meaning, none of the blocky compression artifacts or the streaky horizontal motion lines.  (“telecine judder” is the nerdy term.)
  2. at least 640×480 and at least 23fps.
  3. it have a relatively small hdd footprint.  these are kids movies after all.  a half an hour show needs to be less than 200mb.
  4. the final product needs to play on my 360.
  5. it needs to have a “one-click” encoding pipeline.

see?  not too much to ask for at all.  and, to top it off, i’d seen it done.  for a delusional-but-brief stint, i thought it would be easier to just bittorrent the movies instead of rip/encode them — um no.  bittorrent sucks for the long tail.  you should try to pull down a baby einstein with utorrent.  ha!

i’ll spare you all the painful gore of me moving from solutions like automkv to megui to mencoder to avidemux and about a hundred others in-between.  movie mucking misery.  so, about 500 test encodings later, i have some success to report:

handbrake is the bomb.

the end product looks fantastic and the audio syncs up perfectly.  here’s the killer features it had that helped me to meet my goals:

  • it will rip specific chapters. (key for discs with 5 or 6 1/2 hour episodes!)
  • it has a one-click mentality.
  • it has an xbox 360 preset to start with.
  • it’s batch-able.

after a substantial amount of testing, i’ve even boiled the settings down even more finite:

  1. rip the disc with dvdshrink first.  nothing anywhere does anything before you get the video off the stupid physical disc.  handbrake reads iso files, so there’s not need to mess with messy TS_VIDEO directories and their ilk.
  2. start with the 360 preset. (it also has psp, ipod and all the other standard presets)
  3. change the level to 41 instead of 40.
  4. set the bit rate to 900.
  5. set the audio to 128kbs and 44.1khz.
  6. uncheck the two pass video option.  one pass works just fine for low bit rate kids cartoons.

click “start” and you’ve got a half an hour cartoon encoded in about 30 minutes (well.  at least that’s how long it takes on my laptop….) and the file was 185mb.  i then dropped them on my media center and successfully watched them — and they look HOT! — on the 360.


now, if only the powers that be would discover this huge, huge market just waiting for picking, i’d be a happy camper.  i want to buy kids movies cheap, small and digital.  and, i don’t want to stream crappy versions of them for god’s sake.  mr. future retailer, it’s to your benefit because you only pay for the bandwidth once instead of the 20-billion times a week we watch book two, chapter two of avatar.  and, i especially don’t want to be locked in to some stupid proprietary format. 

and, most of all, mr. future retailer: please see the success people are having selling cheap mp3s vs. streaming vs. drm’d files.

just make it easy.  you should know by now that most people (especially me!) are lazy and value our time.  easy and cheap (not the same as easy and expensive) trumps hard and free.


My Web 2.0 Panel

i’m heading up to san francisco next week to speak on a panel entitled “Children of Flickr: Making the Massively Multiplayer Social Web.”  i’ll be arguing with such luminaries as justin hall, rajat paharia and gabe zichermann.

okay.  prolly not “arguing” per se.  i bet we’re all gonna be pretty much on the same page and bouncing ideas around at about a thousand miles an hour.

…maybe even a million.

this super-killer-fascinistic talk is summaraized as such:

Flickr was one of the first popular Web 2.0 web sites: a social photo sharing web site that helped popularize tagging. Flickr was born of an attempt to make a browser-based Massively Multiplayer Online Game about information exchange: “Game Neverending.”

Today, the children of Flickr are continuing to work massively multiplayer game mechanics into social web sites. This panel will discuss strategies, models, and pitfalls for harnessing the power of play to promote the social Web.

Panelists include people working on backend server architecture for adding game functionality to social networks, inventors transforming non-participating sites into online games, Firefox extensions making play in the web browser, and other people sneaking fun into everyday online life.

we’ll see you there on wednesday, april 23rd from 10:50am – 11:40am.


Back From the Dead

so.  after a substantial hiatus where i was architecting what you guys know will be The Next Great Thing™.  i’m talking, of course, about my part of metaplace — the webby parts.  all i can say right now is “holy-kick-ass-batman!”  it’s certainly one of the most awesome projects i’ve ever been a part of.


i’m going to make a concerted effort to get back to my long-neglected blog.  especially since we’ve announced and i now feel comfortable talking about webby things again without giving anything away.  hoo-ray!

talk to you soon.  (real soon, actually, i’m going to write a quick post pimping my upcoming web2.0 panel)