game industry

All posts tagged game industry

A wild week eh?

First, a tumultuous launch, raucous and powerful as fans braved BB gun attacks and fisticuffs to lay their hands on the PS3, showing that the hardcore gamers who sip in the absinthe of the Sony brand name chase the rarest fairy of all. And my were they rewarded! Queue heroes of Japan, facing the Marxist raffle system that was sure to placate even the most mannered repressed society on earth, were not so lucky. The mere 80,000 grails stamped for that country were brilliantly cornered by rich business men hiring swarms of Chinese immigrants to infiltrate the line. At one department store, all twenty of the first PS3s went to proud, happy octogenerians who spoke not a whit of Japanese, and gave ecstatic stares when asked what games they were going to buy.

Then, the storm wept itself out, a wink of time passed, and the lines formed again for the Wii, this time with grandmothers instead of gangsters, kids instead of their pushers, and the horizon beamed with hope. People brought goodies and Nintendo paraphenalia out to appease this teletubby crowd, but it was all in vain. As the eleventh hour faded, a man dressed as Mario purchased the first Wii, turned to the press that was broadcasting the perfect launch across the world… and broke into an insipid lullaby that will cement the uncool factor of the Nintendo fanboy for all eternity. So say we all. So say we all.

Yet I must say, as the first launch I hadn't waited in line for something for, I do wish I had at least driven past a line. I would have liked to wait those long morning hours vicariously, and from the comfort of my heated leather seats and loyal crate of In-N-Out offerings. But I think I shall watch this war from afar. I will bide my time. I am, after all, a PC gamer at heart, neither impressed by the graphics of the PS3, nor by the lackluster lasting appeal of Nintendo's minigames. On Gamasutra, we see that price is an overwhelming factor for most people. It is for me. And the gambit I shall make, my quinceaƱera into next-gen, will be this amazing Amazon deal. It begins!

Mark Twain says:

"The trouble ain't that there is too many fools, but that the lightning ain't distributed right."

In a downward spiral of serial debacles, Sony announced today that after the estimate of 4 million PS3 units by end of year was slashed down to 2 million, with launch seeing a paltry 100,000 units for Japan and 400,000 for the U.S., guess what? Japan, the heart of PS3 loyalty, is actually going to be getting 80,000 at launch. In completed unrelated news, end of year units for the Wii is expected to "handily" beat 6 million, with 1-2 million estimated ready to go at launch. Preliminary reports rumor 24-120 Wii's per Best Buy.

Let's step back from the numbers here. What the heck is Sony doing? Do they really want their plentiful holiday season preceded by plentiful consumer base exposure to their competitors? And their weapon against the monumental XBox Live is a petulant adaptation of XFire (for which support falls into the duties of individual developers), completely ignoring the necessity of the online community in the console world, a need PC gamers have taken for granted? Even the Wii Channels system is taking the Animal Crossing model to make gamers networked and personal. The story is quickly going from a Miracle on 34th St. to Great Expectations to Macbeth.

Admittedly, their launch list looks like the strongest of the three so far, but it's almost as if they were actively sowing the seeds of confusion and disappointment into their product. From PR snafus to logistics drama, we're seeing a lot of weakness as they strut and fret their hour on the stage. Though people who find the whole console war debate irrelevant would say the market is robust enough for them all, and the industry stands to gain no matter who is the victor, if they're wrong, there is no doubt that Sony has its hands furthest down the cookie jar.

Despite growing apprehension in the currently overbought market, I recently bought a good chunk of Nintendo stock, something I should have done a long time ago. Even with a soft landing, the economy isn't too supporting of the PS3 price point, nor an alinear jump in game sales (yes I know it's cyclic). I think very soon, the industry will realize that huge budgets net huge revenues, but huge profit margin is what ultimately counts. As it stands, only the Big N seems to be on that terra firma. Looking at how game stocks did this past year, shareholders agree that "next-gen" is just bluster, signifying nothing. Show me the money.

…death and tax evasion.

I seriously thought gamers were a bunch of Democrats these days. Guess not.

I made a post earlier today that I felt worth expanding on. It dissappoints me how naively the gaming community opposes the taxation of virtual property, which thanks to the proliferation of game economies in venues like Second Life and World of Warcraft has brought legislative interests in like cultural vultures to a cash-stuffed corpse, which has begun turning the wheels in the dark recesses of the IRS’ mind. It is like a shudder in the Book of Revelations when Reuters decides to establish a virtual news bureau to investigate virtual news.

But it’s happening. And you’d be a fool to stand against it. Specifically, what’s being debated is that virtual transactions of either virtual goods or virtual currency is capitalized into real money. How much? There are a few individuals who make six digit salaries as black market dealers, (adult) service providers, and real-virtual-estate agents. Can one really expect the IRS to take a backseat to that?

Of course not. Income is income. Income is taxable, income SHOULD be taxable. It doesn’t matter if you’re engaged in the intangible businesses of gaming, or the intangible businesses of day-trading, education, entertainment, customer service, consultation, art, etc., if you’re making money, you should be taxed. The more interesting question is how asset value is determined. But I look forward to the day when I can write the cost of buying Warcraft off my taxes, or include the depreciation of my Second Life home on my Schedule A.

The most ignorant thing people said was that the EULA for the game prohibits sale of virtual assets, and therefore government is breaking the law trying to collect on in-game actions. It doesn’t matter if income is legal, illegal, magical, mystical, or genetically produced out of the ass of an X-man, it is TAXABLE.

I can’t wait until the controversy is stirred up further when Kojima’s stock market game comes out. It is possible the government will confuse realized and non-realized profits in the virtual economy. The current state of game regulation debate is looking bad, as we’re being caught between the “bring the government down on their corporate asses” Democrats, and the “morals aka sex should be regulated in all media” Republicans, turning the whole charade into a political lose-lose for video games. It’s high noon outside the virtual saloon, and the tumbleweeds are a’tumblin away from the gunfight.

TJ writes:

One of my superiors is hellbent on getting a PS3. He mostly just wants it for the Blue Ray thing that it comes with, since current Blue Ray players are supposedly $1K, and the PS3 is gonna be $600.

I was telling him I'd bring my Wii over when he has his PS3 and we'd see who got the better deal.


There's been alot of talk about the coming forced evolution to HD. I'd like to clarify for readers what the real deal with Blu-Ray is at the moment.

  • Blu-Ray stores more data than HD-DVD by packing information in a smaller space, and is named for the narrow blue laser used to read the disc. Actually, both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD use blue lasers.
  • Blu-Ray stores about twice as much as HD-DVD, theoretically. In actuality, since Blu-Ray is expensive to manufacture and license, most Blu-Ray media will be encoded with MPEG-4 instead of the improved VC-1 codec, essentially making HD-DVD a superior choice pricewise.
  • Blu-Ray discs have not yet hit dual-layered dual-sided formats yet, which HD-DVD has, so practically, HD-DVDs hold more at the moment.
  • Blu-Ray has better sound encoding.
  • As it stands, copy-protection standardization on Blu-Rays is up in the air, and the Sony/Warner Bros. discs may not (and don't with the latest PC Blu-Ray drives) play movies from other publishers. They also require an HDMI output or the Blu-Ray players will output at a severely downsized image resolution.
  • Even if Blu-Ray problems are solved, how likely are we going to see studios release one $150 3-disc set, instead of three $60 separate sets? Did we see anything more than extras added when DVDs upped capacity?

Basically, just because Sony says $1000 for a Blu-Ray player, a price they made up, makes the PS3 a good deal, doesn't make it so. Games will be a better factor in determining the worth of the PS3, which today had its price knocked down a bit in Japan and for the Japanese base machines only. Conclusion? Blu-Ray versus HD-DVD is like choosing between a blond and a brunette. Regardless of which one we have, we all know which one is better.

After reams of "studies" that linked gaming with violence while ignoring the possiblity of that relationship being inverse, it makes my day to see a study that was done properly and which took great pains to extrapolate only appropriate conclusions. I'd recommend reading the Q&A with Anderson Analytics, as it's clear they didn't get their causes and effects' mixed up. The conclusions of the study implied that the XBox brand causes more self-confidence and distrust than the PS2. It doesn't explain the ramifications of these feelings, nor tries to guess too much as to why the difference even exist, leaving an explanation open for issues such as marketing styles, console brand history, etc.

Equally exciting for me is this analysis of IGN review scores, showing an strange imbalance and reluctance among their editors to impart anything but whole number scores. It excites me because this is what game journalist should be doing, as it legitimizes a business whose bias had a heydey of a day back when sites like DailyRadar were around. Has it gotten better? Remember the Dan "Shoe" Hsu interview I talked about before? Yeah, I think it's getting better. Slowly. But the gaming breed is an angry, rebellious, and most importantly, proud one. I don't forsee it giving in to console partisanship, fanboyism notwithstanding. Unlike politics, it only takes half an hour to tell if a game is any good, and unlike movies, the merit of your defense is measured not by movie tickets but by the hundreds of hours you spend PLAYING.

Not everything has to head the direction of New Game Journalism, but the idea is enticing. Frontline reports from virtual battlefronts, memoirs from the minds of the culturally entrenched, these are exciting exciting. But game journalism for the masses needs more transparency. I don't mean less bias, as games are inherently subject to extreme bias and we accept that when we read a review or an article, but I want to know who's paying for that bias. But if we already know what's bias and what isn't why does that matter? Because as an industry, it buys us leverage among politicians and competing industries who don't understand games. Imagine if the ESRB has never even been created what mercy we would be at the government's whims. Self-regulation is the first line of defense in the eternal struggle of us versus them, ninjas versus pirates.

(more PBF over here)

Now that World Jump Day is over, stupidity will diffuse more evenly among the 23.934 hours in the sidereal day. If you hadn't heard of it, it was a call for millions of chumps across the planet to jump up and down at the same time in order to shift the orbital path of the planet, and thereby bringing world peace, global cooling, and a climate of general inanity. C'mon folks, the idea makes no sense at all in regards to physics. If anything, if should be World Blow-Upwards-At-The-Sky Day and instead of spreading across the globe canceling out their own foolishness, they should do it all from one place… like a poisonous rainforest or something.

But the strategy they've come up with is not new. Dantesoft sent me a BBC article nicely summing up the troubles a giant EA has faced. From the folks I've talked to, what burnt people out wasn't so much the workload, but the pointlessness of said work when constantly defined and redefined by suits and producers, the worst combo for human health since the Big Mac and large fries. Try changing 3-4 managers a month. Try marketing perps invoking art/code pipeline changes. One gent, who was friends with the guy who filed the class action suit against EA, told me of a game in which developers would try to score points based on how many times they could get producers to say "in reality…," and of course bonus points if you could get them to play the crying card. I kid you not, they cried.

So I guess we are to believe that significant jumping up and down has changed the orbit of EA's heart. I'll believe it when interns stop abandoning their internships there.

But jump hard enough and you'll plummet through the Earth into China, where they're still busy at work ruining stereotypes for Chinese people stateside. Read this incredible story about how Massive Black, related to the artistic monument that is, had their business sabotaged and stolen shamefully and shamelessly by their Shanghai faction.

This is the John Grisham tale of the game industry. Where asian women here in the Valley enjoy the benefits of being stereotypical dragon ladies and kawaii dolls in the sensational yellow fever of the interracial dating scene, asian guys are haplessly painted as spies and fu manchus. Y'know why? 'Cuz of selfish assholes like James Xi Zhang and the massive fraud, embezzlement, and conspiracy he perpetrated against Massive Black. If Hellgate is delayed for this, he's a dead man.

So Mark Rein dares to make yet another bombastic statement, basically scorning episodic gaming. As a devout believer of that church, a sequential content zealot if you will, I'm going to say…

Mark Rein, you are absolute incorrigibly RIGHT.

C'mon people, just admit we haven't seen the innovation inherent to the system given a single beam of sunlight in the retail gaming oobliete. Episodic games, theoretically, should be a way to deliver more consumable, less obligatory content in an addicting way, under a model where people stop paying when they stop having fun. That in itself necessitates developer dedication.

So why is Mark Rein right, like he was about resale of used games as an abuse? Because he's knows better than we do how tempting it is for time-pressed devs to sell their souls to the twin succubi of PFC. Rehashed Assets and General Half-Assery. In the case of Valve's attempt to pretend those episodes are really a magnum opus in the making bearing the wax seal of Half-Life 3, I think we saw what the gestalt of $20 for 20 minutes of gameplay after a 20 week extra wait was worth. Zilch.

From now 'til the peak popularity of the upcoming Neverwinter Nights 2, I declare a moratorium on episodic micro-transacted mini-experiences. I'm going to make my own, via game engines, mods, hacks, or some old school origami. Booyeah!

Stock markets have taken quite a plunge in the last few days, its biggest drop in three years. The combination of a backlash against commodity speculation, profit taking, and the inability of the Fed to stop rate hikes has really put the hurt on investors without the nerve to stay. My advice at the moment is to stick with companies with profits in strengthening currencies, and costs in the weakening dollar. Rate hikes will pause in the short run, rise in the long, especially with the yuan breaking the 8 RMB/$ barrier and the yen fluctuating at the 110 border.

Despite the hubbub of E3, seems like the market has not been kind to game companies. Wedbush Morgan insinuates we're already at a plateau in the game industry, with apparent gains from console sales actually only coming from people buying two consoles. In other words, market penetration is not up to snuff. Atari, fer instance, is clinging desperately to its AD&D license. The only thing they've got left is Call A Friend.

What was up to snuff, and by snuff I mean the film variety, not the 'baccy, was the horrifying crash and burn the Phantom Console with the departure of Kevin Bacchus and the catch-in-the-act of ex-CEO Timothy Roberts, who allegedly faxed unbacked promises for Infinium stock to drum up the price. The SEC replied with "BOOYAH!" Did I not tell people to stay away from this fictitious fiction of a company? Anyone get it on tape? 'Cuz that's snuff.

Let's hear what Guitar Hero babe has to show say.

E3 pics are up!

Most of the big news probably slaps you in the face at each and every game site, so I'm going to stick with impressions and hands-ons, and leave headlines out of this. Overall, this E3 was probably the best one I've been to, with less focus on graphics and more focus on gameplay overall, with the exceptions of the two you-know-whos. Booth babe quality wasn't bad even with clothing restrictions, and watching Fatal1ty bring some wannabe to the brink of tears on the The Longest Yard conversion to Quake4 had me and Xstine laughing our asses off.

So without further ado…

Microsoft Impressions:
Xbox 360 games continue to look better, and I continue to think about getting one. Games look as a they should on a $400 system. Gears of War looked phenomenal of course, but Huxley was surprisingly fun too considering the amount of lag this FPS MMO had, and I was dukin' it with a roundtable of over 30 people. And its framerate was still a SIGHT better than the Crysis engine game, which when not in that Siberia known as the 10-minute loading screen, was trying to impress us with spring-collision driven foliage bending nonsense at a blistering 4 fps. 3D benchmarks are a FAR CRY from being games, please.
Still, Lumines on XBox Live and the announcement of Windows Vista allowing PC and console gamers to meet in sweet swiss bliss gave the system the edge. In Peter Moore's own words, why buy a PS3 when yyou can get both a Wii and a 360 for the same money? As much as I hate the guy, he's right as rain.
Oh yes, Viva PiƱata looks rad (see pic), and besides some framerate problems, has got real style. Good job Rare… finally…

Nintendo Impressions:
As fanatical as the gaming media has been so far about the Wii, I have a huge complaint. I never got to play the damn thing since the line of lines, the sweat-infused meta-line that wrapped itself around the vortex of Nintendo's creative navel, was so entangled that I had not the ken to locate its extradimensional entry point. Dammit Nintendo, you spoke of playing is believing, but put your new console in the furthest reaches of E3's 9th circle of hell. My heart wept for a chance to play Super Smash Bros Brawl, but my melatonin begged for just one more day of sunlight.
Still, just watching the announcers playing Wii Sonic on the big screen by just tilting the controller left and right filled me with an instinctual, pheromonal kind of parasymptomatic gravitation back to West Hall over and over. Instead, I settled for some DS games, like Magnetica (aka Zuma) and Brain Training. Why is Sudoku so damn addicting.

Sony Impressions:
Let's forget about the price for a second, and the feature trickery. Do the games look good? Well, as you can see in the photos, their setup at E3 was still running on a bunch of dev kits, but at the moment it looks good. Not $200 good, mind you, but good. Warhawk wasn't very fun, but had that impressive kind of fluidity and SFX density that reminded me of great Dreamcast rail shooters. Madden looked godawful, honestly, with horribly overdone fur/grass. Heavenly Sword looked pretty good, like a PC version of Devil May Cry, although pixilated self-shadowing and jerky animation need work.
The booth area was pretty packed, and people were cheering like mad at the Final Fantasy trailers, but the actual wait time to get into the private showings was about 5 minutes. There will definitely be a market for PS3, evidenced my the throngs of people in the Singstar booth and the Country Karaoke Revolution game. The PSP, btw, went the way of the N-Gage.


PC Impressions:
I was pleasantly surprised. Hellgate: London continues to look great, and although the avatars are ugly, the gameplay is smooth and addicting just to even watch. The Conan MMORPG was graphically beautiful, especially the horse animations, but it seems like there was stuff being killed only when I looked away. Boring.
Xstine and I are both excited about Neverwinter Nights 2, and eye-rolly about World of Warcraft's expansion and its new Dranei Alliance race. NCSoft held a pretty exciting Guild Wars: Factions tournament with Koreans slaughtering Koreans, but nothing was nearly as exciting as THIS…..


Finally, some of the coolest things we saw there were these two toys:

So the news is out. Sony Playstation 3 will be out November 17th at a cost that could buy you two hot hookers for three hot hours. And if you're the kinda swank who shells out extra for greek lessons, you'd be able to get a REAL PS3.

That's correct, there are two versions of the PS3, the poor rich man's edition, and the rich man's edition. The first is for people who somehow can cough up $499 for a 20GB version, but not $599 for the 60GB version. The $599 version includes Wifi, HDMI outputs, memory/SD slots, and rumble… which renders the other version impotent for all intents and purposes. It's like shelling out for $499 for a lady of the night and having her tell ya she ain't going to do it standing. Or sitting. Or even with YOUR dick. Heck she ain't even got a hole.

But that's not the announcement that bothered me, no sirree boob. Here's the shocker. Remember the boomerang? Well, it went flying out the window, and has flown back stripped of all original innovations, but dripping in the blood of victimized Wii. They've gone back to using the original controller design, except with bluetooth and… MOTION SENSING! Who didn't see that coming? Who didn't expect Sony to fake an orgasm and deem it the performance of the night? Oh, that's right, gamer virgins. Of which only 6 out of 10 Americans still are.

Sigh. Honestly, their plagarism would be a lot less shameful if it was implemented with a modicum of creativity. I mean, the controller only detects tilt while in motion! I call shenanigans! And I mean the urethra burning type!