Saturday, May 17, 2008

Jack in the Wha?

How far off topic can I go? Let's find out. My wife had the munchies and went to Jack in the Box for a snack (closest fast food to our house) and came back with a the Sampler Trio. They also threw in some sauce...

14 packets of sauce. Four-friggin'-teen.


Am I really 90% doomed to fail?

90% of Corporate Virtual World Efforts Fail in 18 Months

Assuming this is true, and from what I've seen, I wouldn't doubt it. The question for those of us in the Virtual Worlds business is what will it take to be that 10% that succeeds.

Be Remarkable - The worlds that survive will be unique in some way, or the best in some way. (It's easier to be unique than best.) Dinosaur Junction is so much like Club Penguin, it's ridiculous. Not unique. Not best. I'll take 9:1 for them to fail.

It's the Community, Stupid - Yep. Fancy graphics and great games are available everywhere. What really drives an online world is the people who inhabit it. It's got to be easy and fun to hook up with real live people.

It's got to WORK - Most of the virtual worlds I've visited are still in deep, deep, beta. Whirled and Urbaniacs both have serious problems with user interface and general functionality. As other worlds from heavy hitters like Disney come on line, the rest of us have better be ready with stuff that's ready to compete. Like, now.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Nintendo says 'Casual' Doesn't Exist

Nintendo Europe's senior marketing director Laurent Fischer says so.

I wasn't going to bring this up until I ran across this amazing response on the Escapist Forum:

By Jon Rose

Let me make the distinction clear for the hangers-on who jumped straight from the short bus into my hobby:

Hardcore - people who keep buying games out of some idiotic habit despite needless complications with hardware, absurd prices, disappointing "AAA" wankfests and/or thoroughly corrupt review industry who seem to have an extreme aversion toward actually fulfilling their function

Casual - everyone else

So, "casual" is at best a useless synonym. "Not retarded" works well enough that we really don't need to coin a new term.



Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Why is Club Penguin safe for your kids?

Club Penguin is the king penguin of online virtual worlds. Bought by Disney for $350 Million, developers watched, mouths agape, as somebody else's amazing idea paid off big time...with simple little penguins and some flash games.

Of course, there is far more to it than that. In addition to being a lot of fun, Club Penguin is one of the safest sites on the internet. With around 100 people monitoring the site and providing customer service, no other site has the resources to assure parents that their kids have EXACTLY the experience they want and expect. What to all those people do? Well, for one they find naughty words.


World of Warcraft is opening doors for other MMO's?

So says somebody in the industry.

It's kind of interesting to think that the WoW's leftovers are of greater value to publishers than the entire MMO market when Blizzard launched the gaming behemoth.

*If* a publisher can keep their costs down to survive in the long tail of the MMO audience there's more opportunity for niche MMO gaming than ever before. I'm not convinced the economics work, as the games are crazy expensive to develop. Of course, like everything in the tech sphere, dev costs will continue to go down.



Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Game Guts - Inside Virtual World Gaming

There's no getting around it, I'm in the virtual worlds business now. It's my job, it's what I do in my spare time (besides playing Wii, building robots, and HL2 for the umpteenth time), and it's what I think about as I'm dozing off to sleep at night.

This shift in my life has ground this blog to a halt, as I'm just not thinking and reading about hobby gaming (cardboard games) nearly enough to comment about them. Rather than kill GG, I've decided to simply shift to the entertainment type that dominates my current life. Virtual Worlds. I'll still pepper this blog with misc. stuff, including the occasional shot at Hasbro (I can't help it.) Since starting work at Flowplay I've had an opportunity to experience the following virtual world/gaming sites, and I have opinions on all of them:

ourWorld - My employer, so don't look for objective commentary here. =-)
dizzywood - Fantastic 3d site aimed for younger kids. My favorite kids site.
Club Penquin - Disney paid huge bank for this, which is why virtual worlds are suddenly the rage. It does a lot of things right!
Whirled - Gaming site that focuses on user generated content. Buggy as hell, but very interesting. More suited to teens and adults.
Urbaniacs - Hip-Hop Superhero themed site. Great concept. Flawed execution. YMMV.
Dinosaur Junction - Club Penguin rip-off, with educational spin. Not bad, just painfully unoriginal.
Faketown - Venerable 2d site with a lot of user generated content. From what I saw, not for kids!
Neopets - Another tenured site. Neopets has a lot to offer, but is far from perfect.
Gaia Online - I have to admit I haven't looked at this one too closely, though there are a couple of big fans in the office here.
Bella Sara - My old gig. Horse themed world aimed squarely at pre-teen girls. I have no idea what they're doing now, but I wish them well (I own stock.)

That's most of the major ones I've checked out. There's also client based virtual worlds like 2nd life (which I've played with, but not recently) and online multiplayer games like MapleStory. I sort of put those types of games in a different category, though it's all one big virtual world family.

I will say this. As far as I'm concerned, everything I've written for this site regarding games, gaming, and game marketing applies to virtual worlds. The product has a different format, but games are games and people are people. To succeed, a virtual world needs to bring something special to the table, and it has to appeal to a specific audience above all others.