Friday, September 30, 2005

Name that tune('s price)

Go read this.

So the record labels are asking for variable pricing?


First off, I beleive in supply and demand.

Also, I understand that the music biz has spent 50+ years predicated on the fact that they can sell you a hit and make you buy 14 other songs with it, for $15.00 (ish), and that this model breaks when you do the $15/15 = $1/song and try and sell them independantly. In short, because your volume goes to pot, as your customers say "no thanks, I just want The Macarena, not this other spanish stuff because there's no funny dance for the other songs." So it makes sense for them to, in order to protect their revenues, ask for consumers to dish up the cash in a different way. And one way is to say "I still want $15, so I'll sell you this hit for 10$, and any of the other songs on the albume for $0.30 each."

But they should be careful! They are playing with matches, and standing in a puddle of gasoline to boot.

There are three things that could go wrong (for them, that is. Some may be very good for the consumer) as I see it:

  • Users may get sticker shock at $5 for a single. Sure, they've paid in the past (anyone remember 45's? Jeez I'm old) but it's a different ballgame now. While they may buy a $15 cd knowing they are doing so for 1 or 2 songs, they are also hoping that they'll like a few others. This is plain and simple, 5-bucks-for-one-song-period.
  • A price war may break out. And it may happen at multiple levels. One label vs another, one artist vs another (where it's really the label trying to steer users choice of, say, generic boy band)
  • unorthodox bundling may start taking place (the retailers offering their own mix packages so users still perceive $1/song, where label A's hit, while getting the $5 price, is pulling $5 worth of 15 other 30 cent songs from labels B, C, D that otherwise wouldn't get picked up at all - thus label A helping it's competition).

And that's just the conservative ideas. More "out there" theories:

  • The indie labels combine with the blogging/podcasting community to steer people to indie bands through a combination of buzz, "underground" style marketing and bargain pricing. Think of the following headlines, "Why blow your beer money on Beyonce? Click here to learn about the 10 hottest underground bands that are breakin' all the rules without breakin' your bank!"
  • Question: Does Mr Jobs have the critical mass of Ipods out there to start a record label, or partner with one for exclusivity? Does one of the major labels break ranks in order to screw their brethren in exchange for a lock on all those podders?

In any case, I just think Mr Bronfman (who, btw, hails from Montreal, my home town) should be careful. People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

Except of course, if "people in glass houses" means "people with the rights to Glass Houses", the Billy Joel album. which was one of those rare exceptions in that it generated five top-forty hits, and thus doesn't follow the model discussed above.

Drink up! Playboy names McGill 'Top 10 Party School'


Thank goodness Playboy wasn't there recruiting when my wife was in nursing school there! :-)

FYI, I only went night school at McGill, but I did partake of the party scene and can't say I disagree. Montreal's drinking age of 18 doesn't hurt, as does the campus being within blocks of many, many nightclubs.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Dear Mr Otellini

The remainder of my options expire in about 2 weeks. If there's anything you could do to make the stock pop up over $30 in that time, it'd be much appreciated!


P.S. Mr Buffet, if there's anything you could do to help, I'd be grateful, and perhaps buy you a shiny new bike!


1. I got a new smartphone. Motorola MPx220. It's pretty sweet. Runs windows mobile, so it's syncs with my outlook exchange server, so my work email is on it 'blackberry style', 1.3Mp camera, MP3 player, I can use orb to stream recorded TV shows off my home machine to the device, has bluetooth, mini-sd card, quad-band, etc, etc, etc. A little bigger than I'd have liked, but it's at least more "big phone" than "small PDA".

2. I just read that Warren Buffet filed his first 1040 at teh age of 13. He had a paper route and claimed a deduction for his $35 bicycle. Awesome.

3. I read the above in a article about the 10 riches american. Bill G #1, Buffet #2, Paul Allen #3. Followed by Dell, Ellison at 4,5. Numbers 6,7,8,9 and 10 are all Waltons (!). That's a lot of tupperware and knock off cola, folks!

4. Finally picked up We (heart) Katamari. Good clean fun, folks! Though better polished, it's lost some of the thrill for me. I think that's just a matter of the first one being such a fresh surprise, and you can't recreate that. Same was true of the First Doom, First Matrix (the film that is), etc.

Life as a homeowner

$1000, countless hours and frustration later, finally got the pool leaked fixed.

Noticed funny smell coming from crawlspace. Had dude come look at it. Dead rodent. Ugh. Next problem. Now we ahve to have a guy come to treat the place to make sure rodent doesn't have friends, more cant find a way in, etc.


Video search

Billy points us to

Pretty neat. I was disappointed, however, that it failed on a number of tests ("Mista Sparkolo" and a bunch of variants), Flat Eric, and a bunch of other esoteric bits of pop culture.

It did however, let me find these:

Awww man, I miss my car!!!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Na-NAAAA-na-na-NAH-na-na (cont)

More on Watch Us Game

Thanks to Lauren for her comments to my post on Watch Us Game. Following those, I went and spent a little time scanning the sites forums to get some insight into how it's run.

While I am still very tempted to suspect there's a corporate angle behind it, I'll give it the benefit of the doubt and say this about it: Those running/contributing to the site appear to have good intentions, although somewhat misguided. They appear to be trying to provide a site for girl-gamers to hang out at, but there's still a lot of sexual innuendo (the voyeristic name of the site, the 'photo arrays' of members); and while I will let stand the comments about "we are targetting women 15-30" positioning, I still think it's funny that there aren't any unattractive girls up there.

Anyhow. Given that it appears legit and just misguided, it gets us into the whole space of feminism, women embracing their sexuality vs hiding it, etc, etc.

And since I opted not to take those classes in college in favor of such raunchy hits as "analog circuits 201", I'm not really qualified to comment.

Like I said in my earlier comments, if it's serving useful purpose, regardless of intent, then maybe it's not all so bad.

Monday, September 26, 2005

C'est un site super-chouette!

Is a very cool alternative marketing site. even if you don't speak the language, there are nifty pix. Scroll down to the cool PS2 bubble-wrap bus stop and the nifty spider-man-on-building pic.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

On the koolaid, and on Bill vs Napoleon

I went on Friday to my first MS company meeting. Wow.

Intel was dispersed enough that the closest you get to EVERYONE being in a single meeting is something like the sales & marketing conference in which you get about 5000 people or roughly 7% of the total employee base.

Since the bulk of MS is in the Puget sound area, MS has a big annual company meeting in which the rent the baseball stadium and roughly 20,000 people come attend in person. That's a lot of people.

Anyhow, I got my dose of the company koolaid, and wow. We are doing some awesome stuff, and it's going to be a great year ahead. Of course I can't say what I saw there, but trust me, it's very cool.

One highlight I will mention: A spoof video starring Napoleon Dynamite and Bill G. Supposedly a similar one was done for PDC, and posted on the web, but subsequently taken down because of IP issues. Oh well. Very Very funny. Culminated in Napoleon and Bill getting in a "sissy slap" fight in the cafeteria.

[UPDATE: Found a link that still has a shaky-cam version of it here]

Gaw! It was only like the best movie EVAR!!!

pic I found off the web:

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Game Rental Rant

Alice posted a note about Mark Rein and how he's been on a tear lately about game second hand sales (and rentals too, I think), why they should be outlawed or at least regulated in a way that lets publishers get a share of the take.

I've actually been hearing developers complain about this for 5 or 6 years. For some reason, I heard about it first in Japan, where a publisher was suggesting we join them in approaching the government on it (we opted not to get involved, for other reasons).

Here's a rudimentary breakdown of the value chain which highlights the problem. (Don't laugh at the figures. I rounded to nearest 5 just to make it simple, and yes, it will vary widely from one game to the next)

New Game:

  • developer 10
  • publisher 25
  • distributor 5
  • retailer: 10
  • end user total price: $50
Used Game
  • developer $0
  • publisher $0
  • distributor $0
  • retailer $40
  • end user total price: $40
So, 20% savings to the consumer, 400% the revenue for the retailer, and big zero to the dev, pub and disty.

Mark also argued that there's even a loss to the publisher, as the second buyer of the game make also make support calls, return product, etc, etc, thus inflating 'fixed' costs.

At the end of the day, thisn't a discussion that's unique to games. Or media for that matter. Simple supply/demand economics have worked out the value chain, and people short-circuiting that chain pay for it elsewhere. In this case, it's a large increase in margin to retailers and a small savings to consumers; which in turn results in higher prices being sustained. If it were feasible to get away with lower ASPs (as such a 'second hand law' would enable), the market would go there. SOMEONE would take advantage of it, firing the pistol for everyone else.

Another way to think about it: The market has evolved to a certain price point to satisfy all levels of teh supply chain. Let's say for example, that people started grouping together in pairs (or 3's, 4's) and buying a single insurance policy and then saying "if I have an auto accident, I'll just call you to come down, say it was you, and we'll all split the costs of your policy!" - BRILLIANT! Only as it catches on like wildfire, the insurance market reduced by 75% in size, the number of claims stays fixed, in the end rates go up.

No one's saying that consumers shouldn't have choice. Of course they should. But that choice shouldn't be provided by other parts of the supply chain short-changing the developers of the content.

Personally, I feel that the supply chain should be squeezed and made more efficient (e.g. digital distribution, smaller packaging, better inventory management, etc, etc), rather than forcing more efficiency in the hands of publishers/developers.

Valve has chose to address the problem by not selling games. They let you subscribe to a service, steam, and that enables the game to run. Whether you got the game digitally or physically is immaterial. They are in effect saying "if you agree to give us $50; we agree to let you play our game, for as long as you want. But when you are done, you are done. You may not sell the game to someone else."

One way or another, people enjoying games - second hand, rented, whatever - and not paying the developer a single cent for them - is bad for the industry.

It's easy to pick on Epic because their uber-wealthy, but would you say the same thing if it was a small developer teetering on the edge of bankruptcy? Where that extra revenue would make the difference between another 100 people losing their jobs?

My 2c worth on Epic getting their $20 worth.

P.S. Right now I have a strong bias against retailers that is clouding my opinion. I can't find a copy of We (heart) Katamari anywhere, and retailers are telling me "you should have pre-ordered". Pre-ordered? F.U. You are a retailer. Your job is to stock product so that I can come in and buy it at my convenience. If I want to pre-order, I'll do so online and save a few bucks. Meanwhile, stop running your inventory so tight, stock your shelves and I'll be happy to pay your margin so that I can get the game when I want it.

Crap. Maybe I'll just wait for it to become available second hand.

Scratch that - it's fake

The article referenced in last post turns out to be a fake.

Thought it was a little outlandish. Turns out in this case, that fiction is stranger and more interesting than truth. oh well.

Tiny yellow balls...

Hiroshi Yamauchi, Nintendo's founder and retired president gives an interview in wired. Scanned version of it here.

Stop, do not pass go, do not collect $200, and go read this immediately.

This guy is awesome. He walks a fine line between CEO Bravado and retiree-senility, but you've got to hand it to the guy. He's no pussycat.

Choice quotes:

"Japanese businessmen are tigers; american businessmen are like Yogi Bear, fat and complacent."

"Look at the size and weight of the PSP, you could kill a man with it. Look at it's shape. It's so threatening. It's shaped like a giant penis."

and, all respect to my employer, but you got to hand it to a guy with the guts to say,

"Hey, Ballmer, why don't you suck my tiny yellow balls!"

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Watch out EA

The big boys have come to the playground, and they think your lunchbox looks shiny.

There's a rumor circulating on the web that Murdoch may buy NCSoft. Remember that he recently purchased IGN (and thus GameSpy and other related properties).

News corp is worth about $55B last I checked. When a kid that size decides he's coming to your playground, well, best hide your lunch money.

Go Granny!

My dad was over in the UK visiting my grandma. Check her out:

Pretty good shape for 93! Still imbibing too. You go, granny!


Caught up on Tivo'd ("media centered"? doesn't have the same ring to it) episodes of Starved.

Man, that show is awesome. It's dark. It's funny. It's disturbing to watch (as a show about people with eating disorders should be)... and yet I watch.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Sketch up the earth!

Thanks to Billy for the pointer to this awesome awesomeness.

Sketchup rocks the christ child. I used it a year ago to do the 3D sketches for my BBQ island I had built.

Google earth rocks too, with it's crazy craziness.

Now there's a sketchup plugin that lets build models of buildings and share them with friends within google earth.

Oh man oh man... need me some free time to sketch up the new house. SWEEET!

World's shrinking

Is air travel really just getting more common and the world becoming more accessible?

I swapped some mail with family and realized that by a coincidence of overlapping schedules:

Weekend: I was in Japan, Dad was in UK, Sis was in Africa.
Monday: I was in Seattle, Dad in Montreal, Sis in Toronto.

Crazy. Crazy. Crazy.

Somethin' smells Korporate!

Thanks to Alice for the pointer to "girl gamer" site Watch Us Game.

I agree. Something sounds very fragdolls-esque about this. C'mon, not even ONE above 21 years old? above a 21" waist?

The girls look to be legit gamers (links to real clans for Halo, etc) but the site's motives are someone suspect.

Anyhow, cheers to those ladies that are legit!

Plus ca change...

Still writing up TGS notes. I'll have a longer post with thoughts on Nintendo's revolutionary controller announcement, but thought I'd post one note first:

History buffs will note the irony of Nintendo moving to a vertically-oriented controller and away from a “gamepad” type design. The original gamepad design was invented by none other than Nintendo (with the Nintendo Famicom), at a time when many other platforms had vertically-oriented controllers (Colecovision, Intellivision, Emerson Arcadia, and others).

I just thought that was kind 'o funny.

Way to buck a trend, Nintendo!

Lost photo op

Still have to write up TGS notes (stay tuned), but in the meantime:

I don’t know if it’s because TGS was going on that same weekend, or if it’s a growing trend, but Akihabara was being frequented by cosplayers on Sunday when I went before going to the airport.

I think this pic says a lot. Too bad it was taken with crappy cell phone cam. (If I'd had a better camera, I'd have framed the shot by going up right behind them and shooting from right by one of their thighs, with a bit of the skirt & thigh in the side of the shot, and the rest being a "wall of perverts with cameras")

Na-NAAAA-na-na-NAH-na-na, nuh na na nana na!

We (heart) Katamari gets released today. Will need to stop and pick it up on the way home.

Monday, September 19, 2005


dum,dum,dum, ta dah, dum-de-dum...

Happy Super-Day, Mario!

GameGirlAdvance alerts me to the fact that it's the 2oth anniversary of Super Mario Bros today. There's a celebration up on the japanese site too.

It's not Mario's Birthday, of course, since he first appeared in Donkey Kong in arcades in 1981, making him 24 years old. Brother Luigi was first born in 1983 in the arcade Mario Bros. Kong & his offspring also went off to lucrative solo careers :-)

Super Mario was of course fantastic, but I think Mario Bros is my favorite and still stands as a great multi-player game, where co-op could be turned to death-match with a single mis-placed turtle bump, or head-smack of the "POW" bumper! Super Mario and Mario 64 are both certainly games of historical significance though.

Keep on rockin', M&L!

Back from TGS

Made it back from TGS, though about 6 hours later than expected (missed my Seatac-direct flight, had to route through SF).

TGS was awesome. Hope to post some notes tonight.

Also, adding Alice's 'Wonderland' blog to my links. Alice does tech future/strategy stuff for the BBC. Lots of juicy bits in her blog about games and non-gaming tech stuff.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Swiss Made

I was at the airport before TGS, getting a latte, which is what I often do at airports. Who am I kidding? It's what I often do.

Anyway, the establishment had some fine looking big, red espresso machines from a swiss company. How do I know that? Because they had a big "SWISS MADE" emblem on the back of each.

This reminded me of a conversation I'd had with Alisa and her folks the previous night about sewing machine brands. We'd seen an ad for a Husqvarna sewing machine. I thought Husqvarna was Russian (I was wrong, my mother-in-law was right in saying it's Swedish), and remarked how the brand had overcome a negative image over the past couple decades. As a teen, I knew of them for motorcross bikes, and they weren't held in the same esteem as Yamaha or Suzuki were.

The conversation went on to Bernina, the Bimmer of Broidery, if you will. I thought they were Italian (again, mum in law was right that they were in fact Swiss. Note to self: Don't question mum-in-law's sewing-machine-fu).

On this one, though, either nationality worked in conveying quality. The swiss are known for fine machinery (and chocolate & Skiing of course), and the italians are known for high fashion, not to mention a history of fine sports cars and the butt-pinching of female tourists.

So what does it mean, then, to use nationality to add some cred to a brand, product or service?

Certain countries have long-steeped reputations for certain traits:

  • Swiss make precision instruments (watches, lenses, sewing machines, clocks, and while less popular than in the past, cameras).
  • German = precision engineering, exacting detail.
  • Italian = hand-crafted, exquisite taste.

On the negative side,

  • Chinese = cheaply made.
  • Malaysia = cheaply made by children shackled to sewing machines.
  • England = (for cars anyway) oil in your driveway.

How do such "national brand traits" vary with time?

Japanese used to be synonymous with cheap manufacturing as well (for transistor radios, steel, automobiles). That was until the 70's oil crisis and the american auto industry waking up to find that japanese quality had crept up and surpassed them while they slept and *surprise* with products that were more relevant to the customer. Today Japanese has come to mean innovation and quality to most areas. In addition, there's a kitchy pop culture element to some products such as games, movies and fashion.

What does "American Made" mean? That's a difficult question.

There are certainly some that would claim it means better quality, leading innovation, and such things. I have to feel that even those that claim this don't *entirely* beleive it in their hearts. It seems to always be tainated with a patriotic bent, "This car is American-made! You are an American, aren't you? Then you should buy American!". Which calls into question the assertion that it's really better. If it was, shouldn't that be pitch enough?

I wonder whether a country's leadership takes into account it's country's brand image, and in any way steers it? Could it if it wanted to? If you were China's leadership, would you be doing anything to improve quality standards around products to make you competitive in that domain, following Japan's lead?

How much 'momentum' does a national brand image have? Does the American-made connotation of quality harken to a post WWII era in which it was true? How long before the world says "what have you done for me lately?". Perhaps they already have... Does American-made connote "they don't make 'em like they used to?"

If you were a country that didn't really have a brand image for it's goods, how would you establish one? Let's take my homeland of Canada. Big exports (thus likely candidates to hang your hat on) include natural resources (lumber, nickel, electricity --> "Canada - FEEL THE POWER!!!"), hi-tech (ATI, Matrox, Softimage, Alias, Ubisoft, many many more), and other things. Do you pick the biggest, or the trendiest? The most established or the fastest growing? Or do you dilute the brand by focusing on everything - and thus nothing?

There are many other countries facing this problem, and many more will as many other emerging countries "switch on" in the global marketplace. I'm almost certain India's brand image will go from "cheap tech labor" to "innovation leader" in the next 20 years. What will others do? South Africa? Australia? Thailand? (there's a country who's rep needs help!)

How about France? I know many cool software companies there, but outside of wine & cheese, "French-made" doesn't bring any particular image to mind.

"French maid" of course does, but that's for another blog entry. Or perhaps best kept to myself.

Murphy's Law

It's not well known that Murphy's law, "If anything that can go wrong, will", was not initially stated in the pessimisstic, tongue-in-cheek way that it's most often used. Story goes that Murphy was a major in the airforce in charge of some rocket sled tests, and that he uttered this as a way of driving home a point about a complex system involving millions and millions of life-critical parts, and that even seemingly inoccuous "1 in a million" defect levels amounted to sure-fire failures in such a complex system. (after checking, the Wikipedia entry differs from this someone, but I like my version :-)

However, it's more often used to refer to a comedy of failures, or failures that occur at critical moments.

Which is the context in which I'll refer to it.

I was supposed to be up at 5am to get some stuff done before heading to the airport for TGS wednesday, and I was up late getting stuff ready. As usual, good intent about getting to bed early was taking a back seat to last minute travel prep.

Wise tech-savvy guy that I am, I figure I'll transfer some of my media-center recorded movies to my laptop for viewing on the flight on the way over. Only I couldn't get my work laptop to participate with my home network file sharing. Sure enough, at around 11pm, I go in and futz with settings, only to render the machine unbootable, because now it's looking to verify the password on a domain it can't find, etc, etc.


Luckily, I still had the old laptop at work, so I could just go by the office in the morning and pick it up, and while missing some files I wanted to work on, I should at least be about to get on email & the web.

So I go by the office in the morning and pick up the laptop. Only now I have a laptop that's not fully charged, so I won't be able to use it on the plane for much time.

No problem, I have my MP3 player, which I've refreshed with a bunch of music & podcasts. (BTW, Steve Lacey's podcast keeps getting better. I really enjoy it. Also, his Ferryman song that he wrote after inspiration from the Katrina tragedy is quite good).

So I get to the airport, have 45 minutes of AC time to charge the battery on the laptop. Only with all the panic, I forgot to get a new battery for the MP3 player. Dang it!

Digging through my bag, I find a AAA battery, but no AA, which is what the player takes.

McGuyver Time.

I managed to run the MP3 player off the AAA by doing the following: I wrapped a half-piece of tissue around it to make it the size of a AA, which a "tube" extending off the positive terminal end of the battery. In that "tube", I inserted a spring I extracted from teh end of a pen I had with me. The tissue held the spring and battery in line, and the spring filled the difference in length between a AA and a AAA, and also acted as a conductor.

Ha. I rule.

I'd post a picture, but I also forgot my digital camera as well.

Oh, and my cel phone has also given up the ghost, for some reason always thinking a headset is plugged in, when that isn't the case.

Sigh. Some days, everything can, and does, go wrong.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Got Vista installed on my home gaming/general usage rig.

YIPPEE! Shiny new OS.


2 days before TGS not the time to come down with a killer cold.


Hopefully this is a fast-passing one. Sore throat monday, sniffles today. Better tommorrow? Fingers crossed! Bed early tonight!

Wooden PC

Courtesy Gamasutra, a very sweet wooden PC mod:

Reminds me of Robin Williams' sweet laptop in The Final Cut (an excellent sci-fi flick if you haven't seen it)

Monday, September 12, 2005

A geeky convention goer is you!

You stand in arizona. Exits are north, east, and west. In front of you is:
- a geeky convention


Having though previously that PAX was king of geeky conventions, I stand corrected.

Kingdom of Loathing's creators are holding their second annual convention two weeks from now. Link here.

If I'd known this before scheduling my Tokyo Game Show trip....

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Make Room!

We did the garage sale thing this weekend, if for no other reason than to get rid of a bunch of stuff. Got rid of a bunch of things, including several, but not all, of the big ticket items (e.g. washer, dryer). Next step to craig's list a bunch of them.

Also went to Toys'R'Us to get the kids a sandbox as an early b-day present. Whee! Sandbox! I hope there are no AO-type games hidden in it (snicker)

Oh, added Billy & Janel to the blog list. Tip'O'the hat to Billy & Janel and their upcoming replication!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

bizzy bizzy!

Long week with stuff at work + prep for TGS. Was going to attend the WIGI event tommorrow but just can't make it given that it's last weekend with the family for a couple weeks. Oh well, maybe next time. Who knows. Maybe I'll drop by for a couple hours. It's right up the street from my house (10 minute drive).

TGS next week. Excited to see if the casual games landscape looks as sunny over in the land of the rising sun.

Friday, September 9, 2005

center of europe?

EA announces it's moving it's euro headquarters from London to Geneva.

You have to look very hard to find a place comparably expensive to London. Geneva is it.

They claim it's to be more central to the rest of europe, and that they are currently too UK focused.

Uh, yeah. I've been to Geneva. I know it's proximity to Zermatt. I think I know the real reason. Fabulous chocolate, beer, schnitzel and absolutely unparalleled skiing!

None of this was communicated to me when I was job hunting! Doh!

Thursday, September 8, 2005

Midway thumbs nose at EA

From Gamasutra:

Midway Games, tongue firmly in cheek, has announced a 22-year exclusivity deal with "The League," the fictitious football organization that forms the basis of its upcoming Blitz: The League. For a sum "rumored to be in the billion-dollar range," Midway will be able to use the 150 years of The League's history and its associated Players Group roster in video games for consoles, PCs, handheld systems, mobile phones, standalone TV Games, in-flight entertainment, casual Web platforms, DVD extras, and advertising for all of the above.

Ha ha! Well played, Midway!

Killer App

Orb totally rocks the christ child.


I thought after 9-11 that not much could shake me anymore. Apparently I was wrong.

Kids do more than adults: 1, 2
Private industry does more than government: 1, 2

It's sad that neither surprises me.

Signs of life

I saw three signs of life today:

1. Arcades.

*sigh* where did we go wrong?

Today I attended Microsoft's big Marketing Symposium, a multi-thousand person power-pow-wow that I can't talk about in this forum, other than to say, this company kicks butt. I am so jazzed about working here. We're doing awesome things.

Anyhow, it was going on downtown at the convention center and I attended. On the way out, I dropped by the local GameWorks, because it's been years since I've been in one.

And **ugh** nothing's changed.

Six or Seven years ago, consoles were challenging the arcade machines for what they could do, but now they are MONSTROUSLY behind standard consumer machines. Very sad. All they have left is peripherals, which is why all the games are either driving sims, beat matching (drum kit, guitar, dance platform, etc) or "wacky peripheral" (hang gliding, fire-fighting hose, etc, etc). But to slap all that force feedback servo, fiberglass, and projection screen together and then run in on something akin to a PS1 is just criminal! No filtering, super low polycounts, not to mention tired game design ideas.

I have to forgive the design thing somewhat. Innovation is always hard to fund and justify funding - let alone in a market that's been bleeding out for years - and it must be especially hard in a place where the user must GET your game in a matter of seconds, and become at least moderately proficient in minutes. Training levels on arcade games cost money (time another person could be paying/playing), would be another way to put it.

Anyhow, so I'm walking around completely depressed when lo and behold! Something new! Something - different looking!

It's Sega's Ollie King! A skateboarding game, it's a mix of Skate King and Wipeout, it's toon shaded (cel shaded if you must) and has some great stylized video transitions and the like. Anyhow, great to see some signs of life in that market.

As an aside, I was going to post screens from the game, but FORGET IT! Stop, do not pass Go, do not collect $200, and go immediately to download the 10Mb owners manual for the Ollie King cabinet! Check out the work they put into the illustrations therein! Somewhere, Ed Tufte is sippy a $75 cognac and feeling smug. (Actually, he probably knows nothing about the sega manual, but it's safe to bet that he's feeling smug anyhow). Check a snip from the manual:

Whew. On to number sign of life number two!

Cell phone gaming

Back when I was at Intel, I had to meet with the CEO one time to give him a briefing on game technology, the industry, etc. Someone said, "you need to talk about cell phone gaming". So I did. I gave it one line in teh presentation and said something akin to "never have 200 million gaming devices sucked so bad". And then I moved on.

Not saying he nor the company shared the view, but it was mine.

And yet here I am, a couple years later, and I bought my first cell phone game (shudder).

I bought Phil Hellmuth Texas Hold'em Poker. And I like it. Worth the $6 or whatever it was.

So, who's to say I can't change my mind.

Third sign of life: Media center

This was more a sign of life of the Frankenstein "IT'S ALIVE!!!" Variety.

I've had a side project going for a little while to build a Media Center Edition-based PC, and use it as my primary PVR, replacing my ReplayTV.

Now I'm as skeptical as anyone about using a PC-based device in my got-to-run-24/7/365 living room, but I figured I'd give it a try. I'd put a PC together, added a dual-tuner Nvidia tv tuner card, installed MCE2005, and picked up one of Microsoft's new keyboards for MCE as well.

So, it's ALIVE! It's happily recording away a bunch of movies and shows. So far I like hte interface, and it seems to be working pretty well. I'll give it about a week, and if it's pretty solid, it's going to the living room!

So, anyhow, I've seen signs of life. But for all that, I'm dead to teh world, so I'm going to bed!

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

And the el coucaracha award goes to

S3, for launching Chrome20, their latest chip, and becoming the latest "graphics company that wouldn't die". They accept the award handed over from PowerVR, who have graduated up to the "oh my god you're kidding? Still making graphics?" award :-)

Is that a volcano brewing, or is Oregon just happy to see me go?

Courtesy of Slashdot, a possible new volcano brewing in Oregon. Good thing I left the state!

"Growing bulge near the sisters". Umm.. sounds like a title of a dirty movie, if you ask me!

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Nintendo whips out the IP

1up has some news about the upcoming SSX release for all the consoles.

While I'm sure Sony and MS will be trying to out-shader one another, Nintendo says "yeah, ok. You can have your trilini-riffic-metallo-shader...

"...or you can snowboard as Mario, Luigi, or Princess peach, and only on GameCube".

Well played, Nintendo. Well played. Considering where I work, it's getting real hard not to go buy a gamecube.

Pretty novel use of 1st party IP as well. I hope it continues. I want to roam around GTA3 as Pacman, eating up all the nasty hot coffee content. Or roam around WoW as the Katamari Prince, rolling up all the millions of subscribers into a money-generating ball. So much time wasted in the world...

Wow factor

Disclaimer: I beleive that I among the 12-13 people in the developed world that have not played World of Warcraft. I am certain I'm the only one in my group here at work.

The only MMO's I've sunk any time into were Asheron's Call and Motor City Online. i.e. If I buy a copy of your MMO, you'd better worry.

So, I'm not WoW expert. However, lack of expertise has never stopped me from commenting on something, and this is no exception.

But first, an anecdote...

Yesterday, I had some grocery shopping to do between bouts of furniture wrestling, so I went down to the local Albertson's, father-in-law in tow, wearing work-around-the-house garb, i.e. an ATI t-shirt I obtained at some tradeshow.

The cashier at the store was a twenty-ish year old young lady. Upon seeing my T-shirt, she says "that reminds me - I have to update my video card drivers".

I asked if she was having video card problems. She wasn't, but said that "it's just good to do that pretty often. Especially if you play games."

I asked what games she played. She said she played a lot of Wow, ("too much of it, actually") and that she'd stopped recently when Dungeon Seige 2 came out. Then came the kicker - I asked if DS2 was good and whether she liked it better than the first. She replied "It's really good, but I had to stop. My friends on WoW were IM'ing me to death to get back on".

Wow (exclamation, not acronym) indeed. Not only is there a game out there that has long play-time that slows the churn rate of game consumption, but it's got users torch-and-pitchfork'ing each other into not venturing out to other games.

So, back to the WoW factor.

Today I received this pointer to a NY Times article on how Matrix Online, EQ2 and others are suffering, and whether it's due to MSS capture from WoW - or whether they just are failing on their own while WoW grows the MMO market overall.

I call this the "tastes great, less filling" argument.

There's probably some truth to both sides of the argument, but we won't know for sure until there is better market data available.

MMOG chart has some good data, but only up to June'05. If it truly were MSS-only, you'd see other MMO's numbers taking a big dip after the WoW ramp, and this isn't really the case, with one or two exceptions.

It's certainly not the mirror of the NPD charts (can't post them here) where you see ALL of the titles taking a big hit the week a big seller comes out - which implies that at retail anyhow, there are people walking in with $50 saying, "I'm going to buy a game today, whatever it might be" and if HL2 shipped that week, that's what they buy and not "Sim 2: Sims got expansion packs" expansion pack.

Anyhow, MMO confusion is going to get worse before it gets better as people (a) get more global in their gameplay and (b) alternative monetization schemes come online. It'll be hard to tell where people are spending most of their time.

You can always ask in the grocery check-out line, I guess.

Updated links

Fixed link to Mark's blog, now at rather than the /blog at the end, saving the world over from having to type that extra five characters. Hooray!

Added Jay Bibby's fantastic game review site. Jay posts reviews and analyses of Flash-based (and other) casual and/or innovative games. A definite once-a-day visit!


Today we finally turned the corner on our move-in process. We went from "hauling stuff from A to B" stage, to "hanging stuff on walls and putting books on shelves stage". Progress is clearly being made.

Of course it didn't come without a big, herniating, finale.

When we moved from Portland, we had a wall unit. Big-ass wall unit. Not having room for it in the living room, we had the movers put it up in my office upstairs. Something that required 3 movers, tight negotiation of a stairway, taking a door off a hinge, etc. One of them asked "It's not going anywhere, right? This it's permanent place? Because if you change your mind, it's going to be a bitch to get it back downstairs".

Well, I changed my mind and it was a bitch to get it downstairs. My father-in-law and I did it, using the wheeled base of my tablesaw (I unbolted the saw itself) to balance it as we negotiated the tight turn at the bottom of the stairs.

Then we moved my 36" Sony XBR Trinitron Vega TV from teh bedroom to the office. Yeah, that's a bit heavy too.

Now everything that's heavy and that has to go is in the garage, so not too much heavy lifting to do now. Just need to sell the wall unit, 2 arcade games, a fridge, a washer and dryer. Ech!

Monday, September 5, 2005

Usable, portable devices...

... have always been just out of reach.

One fundamental reason has been the trade-off between a useable screen (resolution, physical size) and portability.

Ladies and Gentlemen. I give you, the roll up display:

Above image is from a Philips working prototype. Details here.

Sunday, September 4, 2005

Busy day as a suburban homeowner

6am alarm
6:30 gym
8am cooked bacon and eggs for kids and in-laws
9:30 IKEA. Somewhere, a forest of particle-board trees is being clearcut as we speak.

I hate IKEA's maze walk-through. What would happen if there was a fire. Would people run screaming through kitchens, kids furnishings, bedding, etc, etc?

Bought new stereo cabinet, trundle bed for kids room.

11:30 lunch - at IKEA

12:30 home, put kids to bed
1:00 assemble roller-base for tablesaw - necesary in new, smaller garage.
3:00 assemble new stereo cab, insert all electronics, re-run cables, etc
4:00 install cat-door (after checking that fat-ass cat will fit through cat door we bought. Amazing how she'll defy topological restrictions when there's food on teh other side of a hole)
5:30 dinner, play with kids, etc
7:30 kids to bed, 30 min TV
8:00 assemble desk in office (hadn't done since the move)
10:00 unpack boxes till 11:00
11:00 SWIM!
11:30 SNL, some internet - now time to go to bed!

Friday, September 2, 2005

Tell it like it is, Mr Mayor!

Thanks Mark, for the pointer to this CNN interview.

I feel bad this is all happening, but damn do I love the image of a cigar-chomping "John Wayne" general arriving on scene who "came off the doggone chopper, and he started cussing and people started moving. And he's getting some stuff done".

It was a dark and stormy night...

Turns out a guy from Microsoft, Dan Mackay, just won the Bulwer-Lytton contest, a contest in which people are asked to submit the worst possible opening sentence of an imaginary novel. (the contest is named for Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, a Victorian writer famous for having penned the line “It was a dark and stormy night).

Dan's sentence:

"As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire, highly functional yet pleasingly formed, perched prominently on top of the intake manifold, aching for experienced hands, the small knurled caps of the oil dampeners begging to be inspected and adjusted as described in chapter seven of the shop manual."

I found it reminiscent of Casey's pork chop post:

"Soon the chop was laid bare in its mustard herb demi-glace, naked save for a hazlenut crust, as if I had spied the chop secretly frolicking by the seashore, sand clinging to its enticingly wet bodice"


Pussy peripheral?

Get out of the gutter! It's not what you think.

Gamasutra has posted a summary of Robin's Game Design Mash-up at GDCE. The theme was designing games for granny.

Keita Takahashi won with the idea of a "cat" peripheral that sits on grandma's lap, rewarding her for good gameplay with warmth for her arthritic joints, and encourages her to get out and meet other little old ladies.

His idea is whacky, but shows that, like with Katamari Damacy, Keita really an artist looking to use this new medium not only reflect on the world but perhaps change it a little in the process. Gotta respect the man (or 'give him mad props' or whatever it is you kids do this days. word.)

Tip o' the hat to Keita, and to Robin for organizing what sounds like a great session. Sorry I missed it.

Thursday, September 1, 2005

Stick it to circuit city

I mentioned my new receiver a few days ago.

So, circuit city sells it to me for 500. When I bought it, I asked the guy if there were any deals he could offer me. No luck.

On a whim, I check out what it sells for on their website.

$499.99 - $75 discount = $424.99


So I go back to the store, mention this, and they give me back 110% of the difference, or $82.50.

It irks me that they basically know this is store policy (many things on their site are discounted from list like this), so I'm suggesting everyone use this method on a regular basis.

That'll teach them to pray on the unsuspecting non-online shopper!