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Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
| The video game industry has gone from a mole hill to a mountain in no time flat, Chris DiMarco is your Sherpa as you endeavor to scale Mount “Everquest”

October 2012

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Is Another Obstacle In Digital Only Gaming Poised To Fall?

October 31, 2012

The concept of digital-only gaming just got a little closer to reality, thanks to one company that's working with a whole new business model: buying and selling used digital games. The name of the company is Re-Digi, and though they've been in the news before, they're looking to expand their market a bit.

Re-Digi, as recently discussed out at Gamasutra, has been dealing in used digital music for some time now, though not without some opposition as Capitol Records took them to court just over three weeks ago. But Re-Digi isn't just planning to deal in used MP3s, they're also looking to get into used e-books. From there, it's literally only a matter of time until digital games gets into play.

Naturally, there's more than a little resistance to this idea, especially from the copyright owners who don't much like the thought of the same easily-copied media they're selling being copied by the user and the sold off, essentially allowing buyers to have their game and play it too.

Disney Buys LucasArts--What This Could Mean For Gaming

October 30, 2012

I once saw a documentary on Disney parks--it's actually available on Netflix instant right now--that talked about the behind the scenes of Disney. At one point, they discussed one of the Disney park properties that needed more thrill rides, and at one point, they got to talking to George Lucas about a Star Wars ride. What George said in that moment made a lot of sense; basically, he said that if he didn't do Star Wars himself, the only company he would have trusted to do it was Disney. This makes the news of LucasFilm--including the LucasArts gaming division--purchase for $4.05 billion all the more interesting.

Naturally, the first thing most think of when they think LucasFilm--LucasArts, too--is Star Wars. And a Disney Star Wars affair could be one to remember.

Social Gaming's Biggest Failing? Not Enough Social

October 29, 2012

Social gaming is something of a strange beast these days. While there are more than a few people out there waiting for the inevitable collapse of social gaming in favor of mobile gaming, one point seems to be lacking in the field that may well turn it around: namely, the social part.

Facebook's director of user growth, Alex Schulz, summed it up well when he said that Facebook was looking forward to games that were "fundamentally better with friends, and fundamentally impossible to play without your friends". While his examples of such games--Starcraft and Minecraft--weren't exactly tops on the "you must have friends to play this game" list, he did raise a good point: a lot of games are simply better when you play them with other people.

Enjoying the reaction of other people, the camaraderie, the sheer social aspect of social, that's got a lot going for it.

Will Future Consoles Be Loss Leaders?

October 25, 2012

A common marketing move--and price is one of the most important factors in marketing--is to establish what's called a loss leader, a product specifically priced below market value in a bid to get buyers in the door in order to buy other products, priced in a fashion to make a profit for the company. An excellent example of this is game systems, which may start out priced low, but make up the losses by selling games and peripherals.

The Wii U, reportedly, is set to do exactly that, with even Nintendo president Satoru Iwata girding his stockholders for a year of profit that would be thoroughly not "Nintendo-like", as he planned to release the Wii U not at a price that would yield profit, or even match expenses, but rather be seen by the consumer as "reasonable", so that they'd be encouraged to pick a unit up close to launch.

Getting users into consoles--or to stay in consoles, depending--is likely to be a high priority for manufacturers, especially as gamers find their budgets pinched by a bad economy, and less likely to shell out the necessary money to buy consoles and games. Worse, the growing threat to console gaming that is mobile gaming is likely to keep pressure on the sector for the foreseeable future, and consoles will have to not only offer a better experience, but do so at a price that makes it worth sticking around.

Now, granted, this may not be the start of a trend.

Why Federal Funding For Games Isn't A Bad Idea

October 24, 2012

With the election only a few days away, and many people starting to take a long hard look at just who it is they want in charge of the country--or at least, who they'd least hate to be in charge of the country--the campaigning is already well underway. One issue is coming up that's got a lot of people taking notice, specifically, the issue of government waste. Part of that waste--according to one Senator, anyway--is related to gaming.

Senator Tom Coburn, who regularly compiles what's known as the government "Waste Book" is a chronicle of every dollar Coburn believes is erroneously spent. Some of them are pretty clear examples of mis-spending in government, like the so-called "sidewalk to nowhere", or a project designed to build cybernetic replicas of squirrels.

Do Zynga's Big Layoffs Signal Trouble For Social Gaming?

October 23, 2012

There are some out there that say social gaming is dead, to be replaced with mobile gaming instead. While this is hardly an item with a consensus behind it, the point remains that there are critical problems in the space, as evidenced by the recent layoffs at Zynga.

Ahead of their financial reporting tomorrow, which is likely to look about as dismal as the Slough of Despond in The Neverending Story, Zynga fired the better part of its Austin studio, meaning about a hundred programmers are currently on the street. But that wasn't all the plan at last report, as word also emerged about firings in Boston--from which the Indiana Jones Adventure World game was distributed--as well as potential further firings in Chicago, the UK, and Tokyo. Word also suggests that the entirety of the Zynga Bingo staff is also out.

The timing of the announcements has caught several folks' attention, as the announcements emerged while Apple was engaged in its string of announcements earlier today, prompting some to wonder if Zynga was trying to distract from the news ahead of their financial reporting tomorrow, which will almost certainly look better now that they've cut out about five percent of their work force.

What Happens When A Successful Kickstarter Isn't Good Enough?

October 22, 2012

It's a strange development to consider, make no mistake there. Most people out there who file a Kickstarter are generally raring to go on their new dream project. Those that don't get their Kickstarter off the ground are usually ready to try again later. But what about those projects that make their desired splash on Kickstarter, but run into trouble along the way?

That's just what seems to be happening with "Haunts: The Manse Macabre", a game that went to the Kickstarter well for cash, but as it turns out, is having more trouble than it expected.

What's Got Eidos' Ian Livingstone Seeing Red?

October 18, 2012

A recent Ars Technica interview with Eidos President Ian Livingstone posed an unexpected objection to something that, seemingly, only has a little to do with gaming technology. But when you look more closely at the problem Livingstone has, it starts making a lot of sense.

Specifically, Livingstone's problem isn't with console makers, or with mobile device makers, or even with PC makers. Livingstone's problem is with ISPs--Internet Service Providers--whose lack of bandwidth is starting to interfere with development.

Because of this, Livingstone even projected that the next generation of consoles will still be disc-based, because there simply isn't enough room on the connections being provided to go to a completely digital / download-based delivery system.

While bandwidth generally isn't expanding, and ISPs are looking more in terms of either limiting users' access or forcing users to pay more for more access, game developers are making bigger and bigger games. Bandwidth caps aren't exactly conducive to game development, and game companies like Eidos are starting to have much the same problem that ISP subscribers have been having for quite some time: they're chafing against the upper limits.

What Did Gaming Have To Do With The Potential Firing Of 19 Chinese Bureaucrats?

October 17, 2012

The idea that gaming is generally forbidden at work is not a new concept to most of us; though more than a few of us have--or at least have tried to--slip in a round of solitaire or Tetris every once in a while. But for 19 bureaucrats in China, gaming managed to get them quite possibly fired.

In the province of Xinjiang, 19 bureaucrats with the Industrial Park Regulatory Department of Manas county had taken up a game that was uniquely Chinese, Three Kingdoms Killers Online. Ten of them were township-level supervisors, while four of them were deputy department heads, and the remaining five were of undetermined rank.

The illicit gaming was caught when elements of the local government's disciplinary arm noticed that productivity was starting to crater in both the IPRD as well as in 14 other departments. An investigation kicked up and the bureaucrats in question were caught with their hands on the controllers and a whole lot of explaining to do.

No one's sure, as yet, just what the punishment for said bureaucrats would turn out to be, if there would be anything beyond the very possible firing.

Are Consoles Doomed?

October 16, 2012

Strange question to kick off with, but there's a reason to start with this. Trip Hawkins, the man who founded EA, brought out during an interview with IGN the principle that the console market, the very market that EA had a hand in building, was about to collapse.

Hawkins' remarks suggested that the console market wouldn't disappear. A portion of it would always remain, as there would always be a "hardcore" gaming marketing that would be served by consoles. But Hawkins believed that this market would steadily fall apart until it was merely a shadow of its former self, little more than a niche market, to be replaced by PCs and mobile gaming.

As soon as I stopped laughing, I got to work framing a response.

Why The EA Coupon Glitch May Be A Blessing In Disguise

October 15, 2012

It's been making the rounds of late that EA recently made a fairly substantial mistake with a recent coupon code that resulted in easily thousands of games being given away. But while more than a few are laughing at EA's misstep, it's not hard to see that this may well be a potential blessing for EA.

The coupon code disaster began when EA had offered up a $20 coupon code for the successful completion of a survey geared toward giving EA some marketing information. All of this was fine and well, but the problem came when EA discovered one fatal flaw in the $20 coupon for the Origin Store: the code wasn't secured.

What this meant was that, once the code was found out, it was infinitely reusable. Not only that, it was infinitely transferable.

Three Wildly Underappreciated Concepts In Gaming

October 11, 2012

After reading an editorial over at Joystiq which called for a new line of history to begin in video games--suggesting at least a temporary moratorium on the endless flood of World War II games that seem to constantly make appearances--I couldn't help but think maybe they were right. In fact, there were more than a few underappreciated concepts I'd been wanting to see more of for some time. So I pulled a list of them together, and brought them out here to take a look at three desperately underappreciated game concepts that could stand a little extra shot in the arm.

1. Westerns

This is a subgenre that doesn't seem to come along very often.

Will Variety Prove The Spice Of The Free-To-Play Market?

October 10, 2012

Recently, Emily Greer had a few things to say about free-to-play gaming. Why should anyone bother listening to Emily Greer, you wonder? How about because she's the co-founder of the free-to-play video gaming portal known as Kongregate, one of my personal favorite such venues? What she had to say about free-to-play was actually recently rung assent by another move in the sector that will give Kongregate a run for its money.

Greer described, for the folks at Gamasutra, how free-to-play is actually a big-money effort for Kongregate.

Why Are Investors Fleeing Social Gaming?

October 9, 2012

While 2011 was pretty big as far as social gaming went, the market seems to have dropped off, and pretty substantially, too. The question of the day, of course, is why did investors bug out of the social gaming market? The answer, of course, is a bit more complex than expected.

First, a few basics: a new report from the digital investment bank known as Digi-Capital made the picture clear. Investments for 2012, so far, have hit $591 million, with a little over two and a half months to go in the year.

Three Ways The Microsoft Xbox 720 Can Win Next-Generation Glory

October 8, 2012

I was reading an article over at Gamasutra--it's not hard to enjoy the stuff coming out of that site, especially if you follow gaming and gaming business news--and they had a nice big article on how to handle the next generation of gaming consoles. With the Wii U on the way, and the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox 720 likely to follow with the next E3, it got me thinking about the next generation myself.

I've been a Microsoft gamer for some time now, and it got me to thinking about how to get Microsoft's big entry to the top of the food chain. I had three ways in particular to make that happen, and so, I put them out for you.


Why Microsoft's MyAchievements Program Is Just A Good Start

October 4, 2012

A bit negative, I know, but this is one of those things that really needs to be said. The view, at least from here, is that Microsoft's newly-minted MyAchievements program really isn't going to do much good for Microsoft, at least not the way it's set up. Thankfully, there are some easy corrections that can do the job.

Under Microsoft's MyAchievements program, users will be able to take what was widely considered to be useless as anything other than a measure of gamer success and convert them into actual, tangible rewards. A fine idea, I thought--reward players for their efforts, for their purchases, and for their support by converting these generally intangible things (except the purchases, of course) into tangible things!--at least, until I saw the rewards.

Will The Xbox Entertainment Bundle Make Microsoft A Full Entertainment Solution?

October 3, 2012

Recently I got a good look at the specs on the Xbox 360 Entertainment Bundle, which came available on Amazon recently. The bundle is set to offer up an Xbox 360 console with four gigs of storage, a three month Gold membership to Xbox Live, an Xbox 360 Media Remote, a $10 credit for Amazon Instant Video and three free Xbox Live Arcade titles, though just which titles they are is as yet unclear. But will this prove enough to finally give Microsoft the shot it's wanted as a full entertainment solution? 

The answer, immediately enough, is probably not.

Should You Pay For A Game Review?

October 2, 2012

A practice that was part of the book review world for some time now seems to be making a play for the wider world and slipping into game reviews as well. Specifically, the practice of paying web sites to review a mobile game. The question here, of course, becomes should a developer pay for game reviews? The answer will prove to be as varied as developers themselves.

The practice seems to have its beginnings in the world of book review, where web sites were allowing authors to offer payment in return for what was called "expedited review".

What Drives Players To Mobile Games?

October 1, 2012

A recent study from EEDAR, which appeared on Gamasutra just a short while ago, provided a rundown on how gamers find new games to play when it comes to the mobile gaming market. The mobile gaming market is a far, far different animal from its contemporaries, and nowhere is that more obvious in determining just how mobile games should be marketed.

As it turns out, the biggest driver when it comes to mobile games is word of mouth. Word of mouth drives almost half of mobile gamers' purchases, which beats out advertising, rankings pages, and several other measures by a wide margin.

But this is the part that's particularly interesting: word of mouth only drives about 25 percent of purchases when it comes to HD gaming of some brand. This in turn means that, on average, word of mouth is roughly twice as powerful for the mobile gaming market, and has likely already driven smart developers to their social networks to try and drum up a few good whispering campaigns to get word of mouth going.

But still, this poses difficult questions for marketers.While word of mouth advertising may be one of the cheapest forms there is--in some cases it's free--the question of how to reliably invoke it is something of an issue here.

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