Friday, February 29, 2008

Tribes - Another Take

It's no big secret that I'm a democrat. I find the presidential race both facinating and exciting. All of the candidates were surprisingly strong, capable, and interesting. The final two democrats, particularly so.

But that's not what you hear on talk radio.

Instead of hearing "I like person X for reason Y", we hear versions of "I hate person X for reason Y". For a while it was disheartening to me. Don't these people know the two leading candidates are two sides of the same coin?

Than it hit me, these are the same sorts of hyperbole filled discussions I read on gaming message boards. Console Wars. Board gamers "hate" Collectible and Video Games. Console Gamers "hate" World of Warcraft. World of Warcraft players hate sunlight...(kidding!)

People are emotionally invested in the choices they make, and the more emotion they invest, the more difficult it is for them to accept opposing viewpoints. Criticism of their choices equates to criticism of them, and that can cause folks to lash out in response. This most often manifests in the anonymous worlds of radio and the internet, thankfully. I've haven't heard about fist fights at the political caucuses and game conventions tend to be peaceful affairs.

Bring it home Adam!

If you're releasing a new game that going to go head to head with an existing game with an existing fan base, be aware that you're not just competing with that game, you are indirectly attacking the choices made by the fans of that game. They will resist, even if your game is better, because quitting their game is like admitting they made a mistake playing it the first place. That's one of the reasons it's so much easier to launch a new game in a genre dominated by one product when that product is in decline (WoW replacing Everquest). When fans are making the decision to quit on their own, being the fresh, new thing is exactly what they want and where you want to be. The rest of the time, you're better off finding new customers who are looking for entirely new experiences.


Thursday, February 28, 2008

Great Minds Rip Each Other Off


Don't you hate it when you have a great idea. An epiphany, really, and then you find somebody else not only had the same idea, but has already made it happen?

The basic premise of RPG Superstar exactly what I have been thinking about for the last week, though in my fantasy world (as opposed to Piazo's actual real world) the competition was with an assortment of tabletop game types (card games, board games, miniatures-type game, etc.)

RPG Superstar

Perhaps it's time to shoot Paizo an e-mail?


Trading Card Games aren't really addicting

Starbucks shut down for 3 hours yesterday. I sort of knew it was going to happen, but didn't really pay any attention because, like most people, I don't buy much coffee in the afternoon. Of course, every form of media picked up on the story and Starbucks received a massive amount of publicity. I would be amazed if, when it all gets added up, they lost a meaningful number of sales.

What if Wizards of the Coast decided not to publish a Magic expansion for a cycle? They've kept the same schedule for years: Big expansion in the fall, small expansions in the Spring and Summer. What if one spring they chose to not release anything. Spring is, traditionally, the softest season for game sales.

Would anticipation build, like a popular movie or video game sequel? Would people freak out? Would people just shrug their shoulders and note "they release too many expansions, anyway"?

For the record, I'm voting against the Freak Out option. Also for the record, that's what you're shooting for with your game.


Define "Casual"

Casual games have the reputation of being the current 'in' trend in video gaming. With the Wii, success of Popcap and other online puzzle makers, and kids sites, it's easy to see how the market is growing. The barriers to entry on this type of gaming activities have never been lower. The games are available, easy to play, free or extremely inexpensive. One other defining characteristic is that established hobby-type video game players resent this trend.

I think they have a valid gripe. Talented game designers are being tapped to create these games to the exclusion of other, more traditional 'hobby' type games. It's an easy choice for publishers to make, as their profit margins have the potential to be great.

I was going to predict what this meant for the industry, but honestly I'm not sure. I guess I'll just leave it as an observation.

Does this mean anything to the future of the hard-core video game player and/or publisher?


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Red Mario

Much thanks to (the recovering) Wil Wheaton for bringing this to my attention.

The People's Mario

I don't remember communism being so stylish.


Battlebots - ESPN

It's been a pretty exciting day for me. In addition to a job interview at an amazing company, my favorite show (ever?) may be returning to TV.

If you know me, you know I'm a combat robot enthusiast and fan. This is way cool.

I may not be building a heavyweight, like what would compete at Battlebots, but TV exposure is likely to be a huge boon for our local robotic combat club, WAR and I am all over that.

I've already contacted Battlebots and asked what our club can do to help support their new event. IMHO, combining the power of TV exposure with the infrastructure of the existing hobby clubs is the key to a level of success the sport/hobby hasn't yet enjoyed.

Fingers crossed & Weeeee!


Go with the Flow

In my week-long search to remain an industry insider, I've already had a couple of job interviews. I try to remain calm at these things, but when the outcomes of these meetings are determining the future security of my family, well, nerves do set in. Hopefully I represented myself well.

The first was on Monday with Wizkids, which was cool. I like their products and I love how they have opened up the gaming market with new genres. In fact, that they've done it twice is remarkable. Pre-painted plastic miniatures, first. More recently with the die-cut plasti-card games. In my opinion, innovation like that is how you succeed. Being a part of a company that shares my vision on the path to success is extremely appealing.

Today's interview was with Flowplay. They're an online gaming service and I have to say I was mightily impressed. I'm really hoping they were half as impressed with me as I was with them.
Derrick, if you read this, I loved your hat. With our without me, I think they have a great shot at success. Of course, with me, their chances improve by at least 10%. =-)

It'll be a week (at least) before I hear from either of them. Wish me luck!


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Free Content Model Examples

This time from Wired How-to Wiki

* '''CPM ads''' ("cost per thousand views"; banner ads online and regular ads in print, TV and radio)
* '''CPC ads''' ("cost per click"; think Google ads)
* '''CPT ads''' ("cost per transaction"; you pay only if the customer brought to you from a media sites becomes a paying customer. Here's [ an example].)
* '''Lead generation''' (you pay for qualified names of potential customers)
* '''Autoresponder Memberships''' (people pay for email; [ watch this free video])
* '''Subscription revenues'''
* '''Affiliate revenues''' (e.g., Amazon Associates, [ Products + Clickbank])
* '''Rental of subscriber lists'''
* '''Sale of information''' (selling data about users--aggregate/statistical or individual--to third parties)
* '''Licensing of brand''' (people pay to use a media brand as implied endorsement)
* '''Licensing of content''' (syndication)
* '''Getting the users to create something of value for free and applying any of the above to monetize it'''. (Like Digg or our own Reddit)
* '''Upgraded service/content''' (ed: aka "freemium")
* '''Alternate output''' (pdf; print/print-on-demand; customized Shared Book style; etc.)
* '''Custom services/feeds'''
* '''Live events'''
* '''"Souvenirs"/"Merchandise"'''
* '''Co-branded spinoff'''
* '''Cost Per Install''' (popular with top Facebook apps who can help others get installs)
* '''E-commerce''' (selling stuff directly on your website)
* '''Sponsorships''' (ads of some sort that are sold based on time, not on the number of impressions)
* '''Listings''' (paying a time based amount to list something like a job or real estate on your website)
* '''Paid Inclusion''' (a form of CPC advertising where an advertiser pays to be included in a search result)
* '''Streaming Audio Advertising''' (like radio advertising delivered in the audio stream after a certain amount of audio content has been delivered)
* '''Streaming Video Advertising''' (like streaming audio but in video)
* '''API Fees''' (charging third parties to access your API)

Honestly, I dislike most of the listed 'solutions'. I want a site where game designers can contribute to the site and profit directly from their contributions. A free model may not be appropriate. Some amount of free content will be essential, however.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Urge to Kill...Fading

The Comedy Central site says there will be new episodes starting tomorrow.

Breath. Breath.



Warning: Not game related.

What the hell!?!?!? The Daily Show is STILL in reruns? Last week was a holiday, and Stewart had to get ready for the Oscards, sure. I was distressed, but I handled it.

The writers strike ends and they go back to work for TWO DAYS? TWO FREAKING DAYS?

I'm dying here. I had hoped a blog rant would help. It hasn't.



I want to make money by giving my games away.

Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail, is working on a new book about the economy of "free". His views on how business works totally jibe with what I want to do, but I can't wait until 2009 to find out what he says.

I want to:

  • Build a website with PDF downloads of complete, ready to play, card games.
  • Give the games away for free*
  • Invite other game designers, including designers of out of print games, to do the same.
  • ?
  • Profit
Ideas, anyone?

* My current plan is to charge for the downloads, but if there's a model that allows me to support the site, and myself, without charging, that's the way to go for sure.

This is the article, about the article, which will be in the next (current?) issue of Wired.


Scorched Earth

Collectable-type games have emerged as one of the most profitable genres in tabletop gaming. Probably THE most profitable. Unfortunately for game publishers, it seems to be getting harder and harder to succeed with this model every year. Now, it was always hard, but lately nothing seems to have legs. Remember the World of Warcraft TCG? I'm told it was huge. It's probably still a good seller, but huge? No. I thought the new Pokemon Collectible Minis game would be a big hit with the younger players. It wasn't (discounted at my local games store.) It may be that Pokemon has finally worn out its welcome, but I really think there's something else at work.

1) Established brands (Magic, Clix, ect.) still dominate. There's simply no room for any other brand to get significant traction.
2) Slow economy. Other forms of entertainment, particularly electronic, provide more entertainment for less money.
3) Scorched Earth. Greedy rarity schemes and failure to successfully promote secondary markets have created an industry with a reputation for ripping its customers off, one $4 pack at a time. This mindset, more than anything (IMHO) is preventing quality collectible games from reaching the fan-gamer. These games are now being dismissed by gamers out of hand.

Whether or not a collectible game can overcome this stigma is hard to say. My guess is that it won't, because I don't know of any publisher whose willing to sacrifice short term sales to create a stronger product overall. I've never worked for one who would.

Rares sell packs, they say. To much crap in the pack kills games, I say.