Thursday, May 31, 2007
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
When I lived on the east coast, I never got acquainted with pressure washers. Then I moved to the Pacific Northwest and learned that the hundred-plus days of consecutive wet that we call winter (eat your heart out Noah) tends to make lots of things moldy/mildewy/mossy and so a pressure washer becomes standard household equipment.
I went out and bought one this weekend, and now the deck around the pool looks shiny clean.
When shopping for pressure washers, you quickly learn that there are two variables at play, and that they scale more or less linearly: Price, and Pressure (as in output water pressure ) rated in PSI. There's also a gas vs electric question, but I have a hunch that this is a non issue. Small ones are electric, big ones are gas, and that's that.
It only takes a couple minutes using one to figure out that more pressure means that you can hold the diverging spray further away from the work surface, and that this in turn means the spray is wider and you can cover a larger area in less time. Given that more powerful units cost more, there's a pretty clear time-is-money trade-off the buyer is making.
I don't think most people figure this out before buying one. Thus I was pleased when shopping for one this weekend and saw that Loews has all their displays with a uniformly presented rating translation. Something akin to "this pressure washer can clean a _25_ square foot area in 5 minutes.
I have a hunch, however, that they are leaving a bunch of sales on the table. What they should have done was connected the dots for buyers. Determine the size of the average deck or driveway, and then said "This unit will clean the average driveway in 4 hrs".
Customers would have a clear choice then of what their money bought them. "Hmm.... do I want to spend an extra $100 to save 2 hrs every time I do the driveway?"
Never hurts to make the value proposition crystal clear to the customer.
Monday, May 28, 2007
Ok, I'm not a WoW player, so I don't understand teh mechanics of how all this stuff works.
However, I was surprised to hear (via Raph) that Blizzard is suing a company doing in-game spamming of their gold-farming services.
Resorting to the courts, especially in this case where (as Raph points out) the defendant is a company based in China, seems like a real last-resort type of effort.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Clint has a his feathers ruffled over Hollywood directory Michael Bay's forray into games.
At first glance it's the standard "those hollywood guys wouldn't know a good game if it hit them!" rant, but it's worth reading, as he hits on some of the key issues in the hollywood and games convergence debate:
Do they think that 10 years from now I won't be sure whether I just watched a movie or played a game? Again, I have to make some assumptions about what they mean to have this kind of crap make any sense at all... I can only assume they mean 'the production methodologies and business models are increasingly similar and it is becoming more and more practical to look at doing feature film development and game development simultaneously as part of a multi-media production that increases efficiency'. In other words, they mean convergence in the purest business sense.
Anyhow, worth a read. I agree with him a hundred percent.
Monday, May 21, 2007
I have no idea what in-game product placements are going for in triple-A game titles these days. However, the Freakonomics blog points us to this interesting Businessweek post about the cost of product placement in TV shows like Martha, Oprah, etc, that may point to a high point for us to shoot for.
Stewart’s syndicated NBC show, which airs daily at 4 PM, is currently lagging in the ratings and can only charge advertisers about $10,000 for a 30-second spot, as opposed to $18,000 for The View or a staggering $100,000 for Oprah. But if an advertiser spends at least $250,000 total on ads during a season, the money also buys a special “branded segment” on the show, along with mentions in Stewart’s magazine and radio broadcast.
It seems the idea is working: airtime for Martha Stewart Living is sold out through the 2007-08 season. Latecomers or advertisers who don’t want to invest the full $250,000 can also buy a “one-time in-show oral mention with product close-up,” as BusinessWeek calls it, for $100,000, while a two-minute segment that “works in an advertiser’s talking points” starts at $250,000.
A couple things to observe related to gaming:
- The article seems to hint that product placements are being sold in packages along with commercial spots. Most of the game ad stuff I've seen seems to be selling one or the other, not both packaged together (though I'm not sure. I'll have to check what our guys do on MSN Games).
- Not that I've watched a lot of named-for-first-name TV shows, but the product placements are pretty clearly paid-for, and yet the audience doesn't seem to question Martha's cred. Hath no one an itch to bitch about the pitch?
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
The Freakonomics blog points us to this article on the publishing business. Some choice snippets:
- [on picking hits] The answer is that no one really knows. “It’s an accidental profession, most of the time,” said William... “If you had the key, you’d be very wealthy. Nobody has the key.”
- [On enthusiasts for the medium making up the core of the employees in the segment] "The people who go into it don’t do it for the money, which might explain why it’s such a bad business"
- [on impressions of the business] ...whenever he discusses the industry with people in other industries, “they’re stunned because it’s so unpredictable, because the profit margins are so small, the cycles are so incredibly long, and because of the almost total lack of market research.”
- “The whole thing is educated guesswork, but guesswork nonetheless. You just try to make sure your upside mistakes make up for your downside mistakes.”
The article, of course, is talking about the BOOK publishing business. However, if you were thinking games, it'd still be right on the money.
Nice to know we're not alone.
Monday, May 14, 2007
These *awesome* safe sex public service announcements from France have a very Sims-inspired look to them. Far more positive and realistic message than what you see here in the US (the slogan at the end translate to 'Live long enough to find The One')
Caution: They are NSFWIPA (not safe for work in prudish America), and if that's true for the hetero vid below, it's especially true for the gay version.
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
Some time ago, Guy Kawasaki blogged about SlideShare, a web startup for sharing/storing presentations, and a contest they were having to judge the best presentations.
The contest winners were announced, and they are worth looking at.
A few thoughts:
- These of course aren't presentations at all. They are slide decks. Presentation materials. Minus the speaker, they aren't exactly 'presented'. That being said, I think the site/service is interesting. It would also be interesting if they supported posting video/audio of a talk along with the deck, or perhaps a transcript (like I described in my presentation-related post a while back).
- Most of the presentations subscribe to the very image-heavy, minimal-text style used by Lawrence Lessig, Steve Jobs, and others (more on this here). The judges of this contest, like me, beleive this to be a 'winning' style of presentation. I do wonder though, if we are collectively blinded by the fact that its just plain different than what we are used to seeing. Is this the optimal solution, or are presentation styles just that... styles. Will text quantity vary with trend? And if so, as I asked in the title of this post, are bullet points the new hem length?
- [It would be interesting to ask Seth Godin, who himself favors this style of presentation, what he things a 'purple cow' presentation looks like when all presentations look like purple cows :-)]
Those comments aside, some thoughts on the specific contest-winning 'presentations':
- "Shift Happens" is a great example of using visuals to give facts some punch.
- "Meet Henry" is a great story-telling, single message sales pitch.
- While a little text-heavier than the others, "Unlocking Cool" uses some 'big font' slides to drive key points home (Slide twelve's "Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast" slide is a great example)
In any case, there are some good lessons to be learned here. The site is worth bookmarking.
Sunday, May 6, 2007
The Freakonomics blog has an interesting post about the current debate about poker, and whether it is a game of chance or a game of skill.
The reason it matters at all is because games of chance are covered by a whole other set of laws, namely those covering gambling. The online version of which has recently been outlawed.
Recently a group called the Poker Players Alliance has been trying to lobby for the legitimization of poker, esp online. Annie Duke (of TV poker fame) has a good post on it on her blog. Her post discusses how games of skill can be identified by a "can I throw the game?" test. It's a compelling argument but I suspect it's flawed. As an aside, I predict that mathematician blogs will go through a veritable meme-circle-jerk on this topic over the coming week or two :-)
Does this matter to those of us in video games if we aren't involved in making a poker variant? It does.
The game of skill vs game of chance debate is relevant to any online multiplayer games, especially if any kind of 'play-for-cash' or 'pro tournament for cash prizes' is going to be explored as a possible business model.
Currently, play-for-cash services (e.g. we offer one on MSN Games, in affiliation with a partner) go to great lengths to ensure that there are no random numbers generated differently, or other factors that could result in a randomization of the problem set thrown at the two players in such a way that could affect outcome. As a result, there's a fairly limited set of games they can work with, as each has to be customized for the service.
It's possible that precendent set with poker could affect whether the play-for-cash model thrives or withers.
Is there not a law against driving a big frikkin mirror around? You could blind somebody!
Friday, May 4, 2007
In a conversation with some Digipen students at the IGF at GDC (their game was a finalist), I was *shocked* to learn that they didn't actually have the right to commercialize their game, but that the Digipen school owned the rights to any games created by their students.
I was shocked. I was also naive. I turns out many of today's educational systems are imposing unreasonable copyright terms on students in their media programs. To my knowledge this isn't happening with written works so much as with film, games, etc. I can't see why one would be treated differently than another.
In an interesting development, Boing Boing today posted something about students at USC's film school protesting the copyright policy, and petitioning to have the right to have their works licensed under Creative Commons.
I hope they are successful, and I hope places like Digipen follow suit (or are forced to).
From the folks at Adult Swim, comes perhaps the most sacreligious game ever. Bible Fight
From a mail list I'm on:
Bible Fight is a free web game on adultswim.com and part of their new strategy of offering original games for the masses to play when they should be working. Originally conceived as Sunday School meets Street Fighter 2, Bible Fight blends two of America's favorite past times - religion and violence - to tell the tale of a long lost contest between some of the greatest names of the Bible to see who among them is most deserving to sit at the right hand of God.
Search your hearts, dear friends, and take special care to listen for that quiet knocking. That knocking is Bible Fight, here to fill that persistent nagging emptiness that worldly possessions and success just can't satisfy. Bible Fight will cure what ails you. It will lift you, seperate you; it will turn you into a nine-year-old Hindu boy.
Naughty game designer! You'll burn! :-)
Tuesday, May 1, 2007
This announcement today that Gametap is adding more types of content (current release PC titles), and more business models (ad-supported/free, paid download) to it's already wide mix of offerings.
I don't beleive it's going to help.
As I've said before, I think their problem is that they don't offer a clear best-of-breed, 100% complete solution to any one customer need. Just many things, none of them well.
I consider it an honor and a priviledge to call Jason Della Rocca a friend and former co-worker. Even more so, now that he's acheived that most notorious of game industry accolades: getting chastized on CNN by Jack Thompson.
For those that haven't followed, it went something like this:
- Guy goes nuts, shoots up Virginia Tech and kills a large number of students in the process. (This would be "The part that really sucks")
- JT gets on the media bandwagon and blames the shooting on this guy's game playing, etc.
- JDR posts something on his blog calling JT an ambulance chaser.
- JT is asked about this on MSNBC, just about poops himself and calls JDR a "jackass" and an "idiot". Video here:
- JT challenges JDR to a public debate on the subject.
- JDR takes the bait, mails JT on interest to debate.
- JT agrees, provided he is paid $3000 for the speaking event.
- JDR doesn't want to get paid for this, JT declines freebie.
- JDR posts whole thread to his blog.
I don't have any specific commentary here other than to point out the sheer lunacy of it all. JT is a buffoon, American media is a corporate ad-revenue-driven machine out of control, and there doesnt' seem to be much that can be done about either.