Thursday, August 31, 2006

Tough times at the old stomping grounds

The smell of layoffs is in the air around Intel. I'd spoken to a few friends over there that had seen signs coming for a while, and then there was the 1000-manager-layoff announcement, and now rumor that a cut as big as 10% across the board is in the works.

Tough times for my former co-workers. Best of luck to all my friends there.

And to anyone with games expertise and who'd imagine themselves on my "exceeds" list, feel free to drop me a note about MS inquiries. We're hiring for a few select positions (biz dev, program management, software development, etc).

Fight! Fight! Fight!

Yeehaw! Mark and Andre are gettin' scrappy over the Sony-PS3-Blue-Ray issue. Namely, was it a good idea or bad idea to include Blue Ray?

OK, they're just disagreeing. But one can hope a good 'ol flame war ensues!

I'm going to weigh in with my 2c worth, which is somewhere in the middle, but leaning toward the "bad idea" side.

To me, the whole thing boils down to a religious argument. Specifically: (1) Do you or don't you beleive in the "Christensen Effect" aka "Innovator's Dilemma", and (2) if you do, where do you beleive we are on the "mainstream video quality requirements" curve.

Here's the logic:

For a given technology area (let's say, ink jet printers), the customer base has a given level of demand in terms of performance/quality/etc. That demand generally increases over time. Companies building products in the space build products to meet that demand. They then compete to be the best at meeting or exceeding that demand. Each new feature/product is a potential disruptive technology.

What results is a curve that looks like this:

The problem occurs when the performance/quality/features being delivered EXCEED the usage requirements demanded by the customer base. The dilemma comes from the fact that people at that point are innovating in areas that fewer and fewer consumers care about, and thus are less and less willing to pay for.

The ink jet printer case is a great example where we've seen this happen several times over, in each category (B&W, color, all-in-one) etc. In each category, once you hit the demand of the bulk of the consumer base, suddenly, the only vector to compete on is price. Then price rushes downward... provided there is demand.

The latter part of that sentence here is significant, and is relevant to the Blue-Ray case here. What isn't shown in the graph above is that at some point, the "___ demanding use" lines taper off. You meet user requirements that will NEVER go up, or at least will take a long time to, and remain below the level of what's being delivered.

The crux of the blue-ray arguement comes down to that: Has DVD met or exceeded the user demand for video quality for the foreseeable future? Or will High Def movies and video generate a rush of demand like we saw in the VHS to DVD conversion? The former means Blue-ray (and HD DVD for that matter) stay high in price; the latter means the volumes and demand will quickly lead to an innovation-followed-by-price competition war.

Part of this argument is predicated on the fact that games alone won't drive enough volume in drive unit sales to cause this to happen. DVD got cheap because everyone bought one for movies. PC & games usage just rode that train.

What I think makes this so interesting is that it's a close call. There's a very strong argument that HD equipment in general is becoming affordable and is very compelling. There's also a strong argument that the delta of 'quality of experience overall' is not as big a delta in "DVD->HD" as it was in "VHS->DVD" and thus won't generate teh same kind of consumer stampede.

I agree with all Mark's arguments regarding the benefits to games. I *do* have some disagreement about when/how quickly developers will be able to scale up to that capacity.

In the end though, I lean toward the "Blue Ray was a bad call for the new few years" side of things, simply because I beleive the industry is over estimating how badly consumers are going to want to upgrade their home theatre equipment from DVD/standard def to an HD setup with next gen media. I think the expectation of a similarly frenzied upgrade cycle (and resulting price plummet) is grossly overoptimistic.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Having *adored* Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics and Reinventing Comics books, I figured I'd pre-order Making Comics, his latest book, which comes out next week.

While on Amazon, I also noticed another of his books that I'd not noticed before, 24 Hour Comics. Rather than an exploration of the medium, this is more of a documented experiment in making comics start to finish in a 24hr period. From one of the reviews:

So here's the challenge (read more about it at 24hourcomics dot com): you have blank pages and nothing prepared; the clock starts; 24 hours later, the clock stops and you have a 24-page comic - scripted, laid out, penciled, inked, and lettered. That's it.

Considering that the average professional comic team takes 320+ hours an average to get that far, it's a hell of challenge. To put in other terms - the challenge is to do 320 hours of work in 7.5% of the time normally needed.

It should be no surprise that the 24 Hour Comics Challenge is the brainchild of Scott McCloud...

It sounds uncannily like the Indie Game Jam format, no? Given that McCloud was hanging out at the GDC a number of years back, could that have been where Chris Hecker and others got the idea? The first IGJ was 2002, McCloud started the 24hr comic thing about a decade earlier.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not making a 'credit where due' claim here. Just asserting that these types of efforts may have ripples that travel farther than we think. This is yet another strong case for collaboration between disciplines.


I'm going to nitpick on casual game genre terminology for a bit. Specifically, on one genre.

Probably the most common genre people refer to in the space is the "Matching" or "Match 3". I use Match 3 most often, but it's not entirely fair, as there are a few games that fit within the genre for which 3 is not the number (4 or 5 appear from time to time). That being said, "matching" is too generic, and Match 3 immediately connotes the genre. I much prefer this to "Bejewelled clone", as many match 3 games have evolved pretty far from that mechanic and to call them that is derisive.

Another genre (arguable a sub-genre within Match 3) is that comprised of games like Zuma, Luxor, and Tumblebugs. Here we have a popular enough genre to inspire a large number of games (some 'clones', some with different mechanics and themes) but with which a genre name is not widely associated. Most refer to them as "Zuma clones", as Zuma was the first casual mega-hit in the genre. However, this isn't far since (a) it's derisive, and (b) it's pre-dated by Puzloop (another controversy exists around that, but I digress). So, for this genre, I've heard "Zuma clone", "chain popper" and "marble popper". Personally, I prefer "chain popper" as it's indicative of the mechanic, but doesn't imply/assume the chained objects be spherical rolling objects (indeed, I've seen at least one involving animals waddling/sliding).

So there you have it: Match 3, and Chain Popper. Please add them to you dictionaries, both mental and spell check :-)

*And nod of the head to the guys at Playfirst, who, to my knowledge, coined the Chain Popper genre name.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Geotagging is going to explode

Steve Lacey points us to something uber-cool.

Flickr has added geo-tagging with google maps.

OK, so now I can take a pic with my cell phone, Shozu auto-uploads it to my flickr account, I go to flickr when I'm in front of a PC, drag and drop it onto the map in the right location (if I want to), and with one click I can blog it.

Pretty cool.

It's not *quite* the full feature set of what I want, but it's nifty nonetheless. I'd still like to see the integration be fully transparent (e.g. I'd like to be able to zoom the map and see not only links to images at a given location, but also to related blog entries)

The trick to making this stuff take off is making it brain dead simple, and they've done that. I'd expect the number of people using this is going to just rocket upward.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Geek to the Nth power

Wow. See if you can count the exponential geek power in this:

At Pax (1), the Penny Arcade (2) Expo , they hold a concert featuring two game-related artists, Mini Bosses (3) and MC Frontalot (4). At one point, the latter challenged the former to an onstage head-to-head competition on pre-relased (5) Guitar Hero 2 (6).

Yes, that's geek to the sixth power.

Very cool cover of Outkast hit

Mat Weddle of Obadiah Parker covers Outkast's Hey Ya.

Thanks to Steve Lacey for the link.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Made in... [please insert country of choice]

An interesting article in the paper today, the short version of which was this:

Some companies today have to balance two things:

  • The potential cost savings (and deliverable price advantage that results) by having goods manufactured (or services provided - depending on the business) in cheaper markets (i.e. made in china).
  • The potential resistance/backlash of customers who prefer their product built in the USA, be it for reasons of protectionism/nationalism, or for belief in higher quality.

The article went on to outline a couple companies that chose to address this by offering their customers a choice. The examples given included a medical supply company (made in USA, or made in Mexico - the latter being 25% cheaper) and a company preparing tax returns (American accountant or Indian, the latter being 15% cheaper). With the exception of the tax example, most examples were business to business, and not to consumer, but that's beside the point.

It's an interesting approach, but I'm not sure it's a winning one. Hedging bets is always safer, but the risk is that if either of those approaches is the winner, then a competitor that had all their eggs in that particular basket will be ahead.

It's also not applicable to all businesses, as headaches like SKU managment, inventory, customer support, etc, could be difficult to manage.

However, one can sure imagine interesting control experiments coming out of it, and ones that protectionists wouldn't like.

Imagine you had your choice of Ford Mustangs. One made in Detroit, one made in China or Mexico, with the latter being, say, 15% cheaper. How many would opt for the higher priced one? Would they be tested by Car & Driver separately? What if the cheaper one ended up with better test results?

A more feasible example: "Welcome to technical support. Press (1) to talk to an underpaid high school grad wishing they were elsewhere, or press (2) to speak to an representative with flawless English and who considers this her dream job.


Oppressed by Da Man has an article up about something I noticed (& meant to blog) earlier this week, that the MPA and NMPA (sheet-music equivalents of the RIAA. They represent publisher interests) have shut down OLGA.NET and a handful of other guitar tab and sheet music websites.

This is interesting for a number of reasons:

  • These are user-created/submitted content sites. The music isn't copied from some song book, each is a particular musician's interpretation of the music as he hears it played. How different does a rendition have to be before it's no longer a copyright-covered work?
  • Long term, does this have a negative effect on the industry? How many budding musicians buy more (or less) sheet music because OLGA let them dip their toe in the water?

Anyhow, it's a bummer!

Friday, August 25, 2006

L337 ride

Originally uploaded by Kim Pallister.
I snapped this at 30mph on my cell phone cam, so it's hard to make it, but it's a bimmer with a leet-speak "G4M3R" plate.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Ricky Gervais - Microsoft 1

Part one of two faux training videos for Microsoft UK employees featuring Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant in their roles from the BBC version of The Office.

I love that someone got a video OK'd for corporate use that contains the phrase "..arrive nackered at your desk. Fatigued through intercourse."

Thanks to John Porcaro ( for the link

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

I'm diggin'...

...several things these days:

  • Texas hold'em on Xbox Live Arcade. (a) it's great fun, (b) it's very cool to log into games and chat with folks in a calmer environment than an FPS. Conversations are actually quite similar to a card table in Vegas (where you from? how's your game going? etc)
  • MegaTokyo. I'm on volume two now and I love the 'mash-up' of Manga, Game-culture, US youth culture and geekdom. C'mon, the thought of a L337-speaking computer geek teaching japanese kids english is funny! BEETDOWNUZU SUKSORU!
  • Its Always Sunny in Philedelphia. Alisa and I followed this last season (it's like a very dark and twisted Seinfeld. This season they added Danny Devito to the cast, and it's his best part since Taxi.

You can't put the toothpaste back in the tube

And these days, if you attempt to, a thousand bloggers will mob you, smear the toothpaste all over their bodies, and run naked through the streets whilst shouting your name.

There's a nifty story unfolding in the blogophere that goes something like this:

  • Forbes posts a bone-headed story by a certain Michael Noer, called "Don't Marry Career Women", which as the title would imply, had serious sexist tone to it.
  • Xeni over at boing boing blogs about it here.
  • A few thousand boingers and boingettes get their collective breifs and panties, as we would say in Quebec, dans un noeud.
  • Forbes removes the article. No explanation/apology provided.
  • Boingers and Boingettes add another twist to their undergarments and invite their conspiracy theorist friends over. Much blogging ensues. There is posting of cached versions of the article, retorts and commentary.
  • Enter the creative types (a subset of the boingers/ettes, distinguished by their stylish choice of eyewear - the comprise about 80% of BB readership), and as BB puts it - let the remixes begin.

IF there's a lesson to be (re)learned here, it's that (a) you can't 'undo' things in this day and age - the damage on the web is instant, and it's cached, (b) trying to undo it only adds fuel to the fire, and possibly (c) that igniting a fire around a bozo like Noer only serves to draw more attention to him as other bozos come to see what's on fire.

[Update: Forbes continues to poor reaction by re-posting the article and including a counterpoint article. Both are found here. If this was an article deemed racist (rather than sexist), would they have kept it up and offered someone the chance to counter with an anti-honky article? I doubt it]

Monday, August 21, 2006

New Amazing Grand Theft Auto Like Coke Commercial

Many others have blogged this, but I can't resist.

Coke commercial parody of GTA


Brilliant stop motion video recreating classic games with real-world objects (Muffins = mushrooms, BRILLIANT!)

Can Coral-Colored Console Cause a Commotion?

At Leipzig, Sony announced a limited-edition pink PS2. They also announced price drops to the PS2 and PSP.

OK, the pink edition is VERY cool. I'll give them that. But the "appeal to a wider demographic"? I'm not sure the demographic of people that (a) are interested in a game console, (b) find games among the catalog appealing, and (c) wouldn't buy it because they wanted pink instead of black and silver, is very large. My guess is that you will see a fair number of units move, but they will be repeat buyers.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Carnival of Gamers #17: The Clearance Sale

CheapyD of Cheap Ass Gamer is hosting the Carnival this month. I've got on post in there from earlier this month.

Go git yer carnival fill and get some cheapy bargains while yer at it.

Epyx: The primordial ooze of L33T-speak?

I swear, I was just wondering last week who owned rights to the Epyx catalog of titles (a significant portion of my early teen years having been spent on a c-64), when today I saw this on Gamasutra:

System 3 Secures Rights To Epyx Titles, Remakes Planned

Well, that answers that, doesn't it?

What it doesn't answer, is why they are remaking the (blang)-Games titles (Winter-, Summer-, etc) and not Jumpman?!?

Ah, Jumpman, you shall always be MY mario.

Until they come to their senses, you can always play the most fabulous, Randy-Glover-Authorized, Jumpman Under Construction.

At least System 3 plans to remake Impossible Mission. That title is timeless. It'll stay a while..... STAY FOREVER!

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Post-E3-Supernova opportunity...

... and what people are missing about it.

Recap: E3 imploded recently.I blogged some thoughts on the reasons (and  implications), but the main ones I cited (and most of the blogosphere seems to agree, though differing on priority order) were:

  • Large pubs and platform vendors were holding their own events for retailers and press to roll out their holiday products on their own terms and schedule.
  • The 'depression' between console cycles, combined with costs of next-gen development, squeezing the publishers coffers.
  • The conference had grown too expensive to warrant the cost, given the two above factors

In the wake of the E3 supernova, there seems to be a wave of event-band-wagon-hopping about how '[insert event name here] is going to be focusing on innovation, creativity, etc, and less on [begin evil tone] making money'

That's all well and good. I think it's hogwash.

Events are businesses. There are those that make their money from attendees (these often are called 'conferences'), those that make their money from exhibitors (often called 'trade shows'), and those that make their money from both. In reality, almost ALL events make money from both, but where they fall on the spectrum between the two determines whether they are conference first, trade show second, or vice versa.

Now, depending who the target customer is (attendee, exhibitor, etc), the event owner needs to determine what that potential customer needs.

Which gets to why the "innovation bandwagon" thing is bugging me. I don't think *either* of those customer bases is going to be helped by making "innovation"  a focus for a conference.

  1. Exhibitors want to show product. Either games to prospective buyers (could be end users, retailers, press - all different types of shows) or prospective partners (e.g. graphics card guys exhibiting at the GDC). In most of those cases, if they have something they consider innovative in their latest product, they'll show it. But they aren't there to market 'the potential' of innovation.
  2. Attendees may come seeking "innovation inspiration", but it's a tall order to fill if you actually *promise it*. It's not like innovation comes in a can and can be dished out in measured quantities. You can certainly bring in creative types, people with track records of delivering innovative titles, etc. But that seems best delivered in the context of a GDC or other such event, where it's addressed along with other issues facing the industry, not just 'stand alone'.

Meanwhile I think the real opportunity (for conference oranizers) is for the "B-list" content providers. Those publishers that *aren't* EA, Activision, Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo. Those vendors still need to connect with buyers and (I hope) buyers are still interested in carrying a selection of product from beyond the biggest 5 or 6 players.

Some people have seen this opportunity. CEA is one of them. They are the folks that run CES. Old timers like m'self will remember that there was a significant and growing gaming contingent at CES before the birth of E3. Perhaps it's true that history repeats itself. 

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Playing For A Cause

Normally I don't plug work efforts here too much, but in this case I think it's pretty nifty.

We're currently running a marketing campaign around "Playing for a Cause". For games within the program, donations are being made to teh YWCA for every download game sold or free web game played.

So, go take a few minutes and help out the YWCA while having some fun!

Playing for a Cause.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Windows Live Writer Test

Woo hoo. Seems to be working. (not with images included though)

Windows Live Writer released

I've been meaning for a while to install an offline blogging tool, but hadn't gotten around to it, partly because I was waiting for the next-gen Office (I can't install it yet because of an incompat with one tool I need to use for work).

Anyhow, I saw that Windows Live Writer beta got released on Friday. I've just installed it. If blog posts don't appear over the next few days, well, you'll know what happened! :-)

Write software for your retail Xbox360

Wow, has it been hard to keep my lips sealed about this one. They broke the news at NEWS.COM last night, and we're unveiling it at Gamefest today, so I guess the cat is officially out of the bag.

Official press release here.

We've announced a set of developer tools and a subscription service for hobbyists and students that will let you write software for a retail (i.e. not a specialized dev kit) Xbox360, as well as PCs.

"XNA Game Studio Express" will be in beta by end of month, and will require (for 360 development) a subscription to a $99 service. (Lots cheaper than the $750 Yaroze of yesteryear).

It's important to note that being able to *develop* for the console is not the same thing as being able to *distribute* software for the console. The only way to share games you create will be to share the entire project (source, art, and all) and have the recipient have teh same development tools and build the app. Commercial distribution still occurs through the same methods.

Still, this is way cool. Maybe I'll have to dust off the programming chops.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Plus ca change...

YouTube is the best thing since.... well, it's just the best thing ever.

GameSetWatch points us to this *awesome* series of videos- recordings from Nickelodeon's "LiveWire", a kind of talkshow/issues show from the 80's. This series of videos is from an episode about arcade games.

It's uncanny how much of the content reflects many of the same things we see today. It's also got awesome 80's hair and eyewear, and that's just icing on the cake.

In Part 1, we see:

  • Buckner and Garcia performing 80's 1-hit-wonder "Pac Man Fever", prove that people will by any crap, and that at one point in history, completely opaque sunglasses were manufactured and sold.
  • The stage set for later in the show, interviewing inarticulate kids about their 'addiction'.

In Part 2, we see:

  • A tour of the Bally-Midway manufacturing floor. you don't see arcade games manafactured at this scale anymore, that's for sure. And that's pre-Jamma, folks! Custom PCB's per game.
  • Stanley Jarocki, VP Mktg, gives an interview, somewhat *frightening* in it's content. Namely (a) Talking about Pacman's popularity (a japanese company catapulting new growth in the market by coming up with innovative and approachable games that appeal to women and other non-gamers), and (b) that this growth plus the industry size at that time, and their roadmap, leading him to conclude that there's no foreseeable decline in the market (we should all take note of this hubris and remember it)
  • A small snippet on the change in players and the play dynamic when video games came about (remember, Bally-Midway was a pinball manufacturer before that - at that time they viewed Video games as just a new kind of pinball. When you are a hammer, all the world's a nail.

In part 3, we see:

  • Ronnie Lamm, a PTA district president (and perhaps Jack Thompson's inspiration) comes on to debate the evils of games, making many non-sensical arguements, including an accusation of loan-sharking by arcade owners (the "what are you, and idiot?" look one kid gives her is priceless)
  • Jarocki squirms in his chair some, then says that parents have a responsibility and the industry should police itself (sound familiar?)
  • The one-hit-wonders return to do "Do The Donkey Kong", perhaps better named "beat the dead horse".
  • some minutes of the footage are missing - possibly because Buckner & Jarocki's shades drew near enough to one another to form a gravitational field of some density that it sucked in three minutes of time itself

Definitely recommend watching all three. IN the meantime, I'll be off pondering whether or not to grow my hair out to Jarockify it.

The most metallic metal

Through a music biz contact, I got a butt-load of promo CD's that were on their way to the trash and tore through a bunch to give them a listen.

Long story short, I got introduced to the world of Japanese Hair-Metal bands. My only reaction was "Whoah. The Germans have competition!"

It's like time was frozen at a Judas Priest concert in the 1980's and only the tempo was sped up! :-)

Saturday, August 12, 2006

If ever there was a sign the bubble is back...

Very dot-com, very cool.

Cambrian House, a software company (crowd-sourcing, to use their lingo) that builds some software on top of Google's APIs, decided to buy them lunch. All of them. They showed up at the Googleplex with a THOUSAND pizza's - unannounced. They basically just sneak up in the back of the campus and start handing them out until the google chef's get a bee in their bonnet and call security.

Friday, August 11, 2006

ESA Fights Back

Wow. Saw this press release this morning:


Title pretty much says it all.

This was payback for their attempt to ban the sale of violent video games, which the judge deemed unconstitutional. The amount is to make up for attorney's fees, but I'd imagine it means the ESA is refueled for the next such effort.

I'd also imagine that Mr Lowenstein is currently performaing a well-deserved pumping of the fist in the air. Go Doug!

Thursday, August 10, 2006


I just finished volume one of Megatokyo.

I really enjoyed it. Even if you've read the web comic - even if you have and don't care for it, it's still an interesting read. Fred Gallagher, the artist behind the work, spends a bunch of whitespace (since the web format started out square and the book is 2:3 aspect ratio) explaining the evolution of the story, the characters, his skillset and methods. Really very cool.

It's really need to see the evolution from this:

to this:
or this:

Anyhow, I recommend it!

Futurama - Raiders of the Lost Arcade

Brilliant parody on Futurama involving many 80's arcade and console games.

Monday, August 7, 2006

De-Fence! De-Fence! De-Fence!

Originally uploaded by Kim Pallister.
I spent the better part of this weekend getting started on the fence around the pool. I only got the first four posts done, which means only about 100lbs through the ~350lbs or so of cement I'll end up using for the job.

The "easy to assemble" fence sections turn out to be a lot of custom hack-saw work if you are doing anything other than straights and ninety degree turns, and anything other than the standard 6' section lengths. Since I'm following a curved patio edge, there's a fair amount of custom work to be done. Still, I think the first bit turned out pretty well.

Originally uploaded by Kim Pallister.

Sunday, August 6, 2006

World of Warcraft Dancing Elves

O.M.G. Via Alice; Gay Dancing NightElves in World of Warcraft. Everyday the Internet brings you something more strange and wonderful...

Saturday, August 5, 2006


Browsing the comic section of the bookstore today, I came across the print version of Megatokyo. Given the recent E3 Super Nova, it seemed only fitting to pick it up (I'd read the web version of the comic a while back and it starts off at E3.

The print version has some interesting commentary from the author & artist, talking about the thinking behind it, drawing it, etc. One point he makes is about doing rough sketches and then tracing them.

ArtRage has a tracing-paper feature which makes doing such a thing easy. I did it for my 3rd comic attempt (just for the girl, to figure out how to draw at 3/4 angle). Do the rough sketch, export as image, then start a new file, and set that exported image as tracing paper.

Dead Risin'

The Dead Rising demo was posted on Xbox Live Marketplace today. Woot! Zombie-smashing time!

The character animation and camera work during the cut scenes are awesome. Between that and the hundreds of characters on screen at teh same time, it look s brilliant!

Thursday, August 3, 2006

Half-way there

Yipee! I made 500k in Geometry Wars today! (540k, actually), getting me 6 out of 12 acheivements.

This means I can seriously consider giving it up. Maybe. Next reachable target is Brian Sharp's high score of 650k, who's the only person above me on my friends list. After that, next acheivement is 1,000,000 score, or a few others that seem far from reachable.

(Yes, I know there are people that score many many millions. They are young. I am old. Don't bug me. :-)

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Implications of the Dwarf-Star E3

ESA grand poobah Doug Lowenstein has shed some more light on the changes to E3 in a press release and in some interviews. (one of the tidbits being that it is now the Electronic Entertainment Expo Media Festival - E3MF? Whatever...)

One can infer some of the reasons for what I am dubbing The Great E3 Super Nova of 2006, and the resultant Dwarf Star E3 (I like DS-E3 better than E3MF. I'll buy drinks at the conference for whomever regularly refers to it as such, or as The E3 Singularity :-) from the comments:

  • It's moving from May to July. While it was noted that this was "to allow publishers more time to work on Xmas products", I think there's more to it than that. E3 was initially targeted as an event to connect retailers (specifically retail buyers) with the product they'd be carrying on shelves that year. July is a little late in the planning cycle to serve that purpose. However, I think that this need was no longer there anyway. (1) Large pubs and platform vendors hold their own events with the retail chains invited, (2) I'm guessing that the console vendors have a say in the portfolio of product carried for their platform - and with PC shelf space shrinking, this is more of it. So the move to July also indicates a different target audience: The Media (and thus the name change), which was initially a secondary audience.
  • The event will scale back from 60,000 attendees to 5,000, and from open attendance to invite-only. With the focus being on media, this is really interesting. Who exactly constitutes media in the age of the blogosphere? Who handles the invite list? Will exhibitors be given an allocation? Who handles press invite list specifically and is there only one? Does a bigger spend equal bigger allocation and thus Sony and MS duking it out on who-gets-more-of-their-sycophant-press-in-the-door (which, btw, would mean 'press corps size is the new booth size')?
  • It sounds like the decision was driven by "feedback" (ultimatum?) from the larger exhibitors (Sony, MS, EA, perhaps nintendo, etc). Presumably, the now-on-the-ropes Lowenstein will be consulting with them on whatever the new format is - to what degree? Will they steer format in a way that puts further squeeze on the already struggling smaller pubs?

Anyhow, some thoughts on implications.

  • I am really frightened about what this means for smaller publishers and market niches, who at least had a chance of getting some exposure, making connections, etc, at the event. Perhaps they are no longer included at all? Sure, you can make an argument that they were doing business parasitically on the backs of those footing the bill of the conference to build critical mass, but hey, fleas and ticks are living creatures too! :-)
  • As I said above, I'm worried about how press get qualified and invited. This could turn out to be a blow to games journalism if money steers the invite list away from indie press, those pushing for real stories vs regurgitated messages, and citizen journalists (aka les bloggeurs).
  • On a positive note, this could be a boon to market-niche-specific conferences (e.g. segment-specific ones like Casuality, GDC (the industry itself constitutes a niche, lets not forget), Serious Games Conf, or regional ones in specific countries or states. I've already seen Casuality, for example, rival E3 in terms of a venue for partner meetings within the casual games business. I'm sure this will put it in the lead on that front.
I'm curious what others think. Leave a comment with your thoughts.