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All posts for the month April, 2008

The last two weeks, Xstine and I made some house-hunting trips. At the moment, I believe that the end of 2008 will be a prime time to buy a house in the Bay Area if you plan on staying at least another 5 years. In many counties, prices have fallen over 25% with supply volume soaring. I'd like to catch a deal before 2009 when non-conforming loan limits drop. This coming winter, a cyclically low season, will be the perfect time to do so.

My God it's a disaster out there. We went out to Brentwood, the edge of flat earth, and found massive tracts of abandoned new construction. It looked like a city that tried to cash in on rising property taxes, but with no facilities to keep anyone there. Nothing but endless residentials. A surburban wasteland.

It's absolutely hilarious to me that angry forum posters on Zillow.com are threatening them with legal action, claiming the site's price estimate algorithm is destroying their property values. Aside from some isolated errors, I'd say their house values are being overestimated, and if they want to sue for "defamation" or whatever, they need to show proof that the site cost them damages. Which means you sell for significantly more than the estimate. Which none of them are going to be able to show because prices continue to plummet.

We decided we like the beautiful Concord/Walnut Creek area, which has had excellent price drops and lies in mostly convenient, comfortable location. A local Fry's Electronics and Rasputin's Music didn't hurt either. With this spring taking such big hits (with the exception of February), I am quite excited that such a great deal has come along in our lifetime. If this sounds predatory, so be it. Americans need to learn to spend only what they can afford.

Taking the top-100 games between March 13th, 2007 and March 13th, 2008, as reported by Next-Gen.biz, I did some number crunching to find some correlations. Keep in mind that the conclusions drawn are only appropriate to the games and timeframe stated, and that I did make certain assumptions along the way (like treating re-releases as different games). Plus my math isn’t so hot, but you get the idea.

Here are my findings:

And you can download the excel file here.

What I found is that there is a 0.28 correlation between daily game sales (DS) and Metacritic score. Is this alot? That I cannot tell you, but what I can point out is that this is (surprisingly) higher than the correlation between DS and the # of SKUs the game was released on, which was 0.20 based on the data.

You may notice that there is a negative correlation of -0.13 between total sales numbers and days since release. This is not a mistake. Because the timeframe ends not long after the holiday season, this season’s blockbusters actually have higher total sales than games released after the last holiday season. This goes to show how important that season is. I am aware that the # of sales decreases at an exponential rate after release, so keep in mind that DS is probably weighted higher for more recent releases.

Dividing the mean DS by 100 possible Metacritic points and then multiplying by the correlation squared, I guesstimate that last year each +1% to the Metacritic score was worth 7.67 sales per day (for the top-100 selling games). Is that worth it to developers and publishers? Without more data on budgets and per SKU revenues, it’s hard to tell. One thing to notice is that no top-100 game scored below 30%, so I would think the DS per Score would be slightly higher.

Similar to Chris Pruett’s article (except that I corrected for number of days released and extrapolated correlation) I conclude that a good score does not guarantee sales. I’d clarify his observation that there are no bad games over a million units by saying that companies who make bad games wouldn’t have the budget to attempt a million sales. Scores are important for selling blockbusters, but that doesn’t mean you need to make great games to make money. Sadly, the majority of games just need to be between 50% and 95% to sell well.

In the future, I would like to further refine this data, using platform marketshare and total SKUs, as well as including IP vs. non-IP into the discussion.

On Wednesday, the Olympic torch passed through San Francisco and we went down to Embarcadero for lunch to see the festivities. Predictably, the well-to-do-but-willfully-modest lower-upper-middle-class yuppies were out in force, holding aloft signs emblazoned in magic marker fury. Free Tibet! Down With China! Free Burma! Free Darfur! Free Sudan!

Fights almost broke out if not for the meaningful police presence. In the distance, I saw a Free Tibet banner, floating above a sea of sight-seeing baseball caps, meet a giant red flag of China. They lowered quickly, disappearing into the mass, and then people erupted in a mix of cheering and jeering. It wasn’t as bad as earlier in the day when protesters shook a bus they thought contained the Olympic torch, but it really caught the feelings of the moment. I watched bemused as an old Chinese woman yelled at a Free Burma chick to “stop causing trah-bul” or when an elderly man argued with a kid who had no idea what his Free Darfur T-shirt really meant.

Then again, it’s not like the adults understood what it all meant either. I don’t want to get too contentious, but the Free Tibet people have to understand that since the Mongols conquered them, Tibet has never been considered a free nation by anyone except themselves. As unfair as it is, the world runs on established documents and treaties, and none exist declaring Tibetan sovereignty.

Instead, the international community recognizes the Succession of States principle that essentially says when one state takes over another, it assumes the former’s assets. In this view, Tibet was passed over from Mongols to the Qing, Qing to ROC, and finally ROC to PRC. Interestingly, Taiwan (the ROC) actually denies Tibet’s independence. Not one foreign government supports Tibetan independence despite criticizing the violence- the world would fall apart! States would be meaningless.

So what defines a state? The answer, sadly, is everyone else. Without international diplomatic recognition, no amount of desire for independence can *make* you a state, anymore than Hawaii’s islanders can declare themselves historically sovereign from the United States. Tibetans validly point out China colonized them by force, but that essentially validates they are a subjugated state. Are our southern states rightfully independent because the Civil War formed the Union by force?

One cannot go around earning freedom by demanding it. Knowing the Chinese people well, protests and shame are only going to reinforce their adamancy. If we want results, first take politics out of the Olympics, as it was always meant to be. Then treat China as a peer, don’t bring Western arrogance to the table. They will follow that lead far better than any empty threats. Or crazies yelling out “FREE CASINOS FOR TIBET!

Love PC games but hate the mouse+keyboard setup? Want to just kick back with an ergonomic controller in your hand, feet up on your desk? Ever wonder what it'd be like to hook the wiimote up to your computer? Well, wonder no more, Pinnacle Game Profiler let's you do just that and more!

<takes off infomercial hat>

After wearing out the cartilage in my index finger with that brutal combination of WOW and animating in Maya, I started looking for better mice, touch-pens, trackballs, anything that could let me continue gaming on the PC without jeopardizing my hand health. I've tried them all. I finally decided to try using a gamepad for my PC, and after trying several programs, I've found my calling in PGP's excellent and dirt cheap solution. So far, I've connected wireless XBox 360 and PS2 controllers to it flawlessly, and it even supports the wiimote. My co-workers were impressed. …

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No doubt you’ve heard the news that Henry Paulson wants to tighten standards on banks now that the country is falling apart. Sit back, ‘cuz I got a heck of a story for you:

While I am completely sympathetic to how much people hate our current President and his disastrously arrogant administration, it infuriates me to hear people claim Bush brought about this recession. We’ve been in a recession since Nixon, we just didn’t know it yet. The worst is how people believe that Clinton balanced the budget, and that Bush subsequently ruined it. How slick is Willy. I think I need to explain exactly why this is an outright urban legend.

The whole charade depends on the semantics of accounting. We actually have two different debts that add up to become the National Debt. They are Public Debt and Intergovermental Debt. The first is what the people owe, the second is what the government owes itself (that the people will repay). The government owes itself? Right, the government, much like our brains, is actually several semi-independent entities that interact to govern, and therefore can take loans from each other as if they were separate.

What Clinton did was borrow from the government (Intergovernmental Debt) to pay off Public Debt. If you check the U.S. Treasury records, National Debt continued to increase throughout the Clinton administration, albeit slower than the previous presidencies. How in the world can increasing National Debt be considered a budget surplus? …

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