Global Game Industry News Blog

Friday, June 30, 2006

Apparently IDG Hasn't Gotten the Memo...

That the Wii is not the GameCube. I mean, they've got to be kidding. They could not have prediced the response the DS has received, nor are they accurately predicting how excited gamers are about the Wii, or the fact that the Wii is targeting a new demographic. Like the iPod, the Wii has potential to totally floor analysts like this, because it goes beyond standard markets. It does something new. The headline probably should have run:

Analyst: IDG To Keep Smoking Crack Through 2009

The other interesting piece is that Nintendo hasn't even thought about "next-gen" yet. They view the Wii as pushing current gen games into a new market. Providing a new means of interaction and more broadly appealing titles. It's got more to do with new markets than with next-gen, which is obviously something that IDG didn't get. If Nintendo were doing precisely what they'd done before, they'd probably be right. But since they're not, they're likely wrong.

Gamasutra - Analyst: Xbox 360 To Keep U.S. Lead Through 2009
For 2007, IDG predicts Microsoft dominance for the next two years in the North American next-gen game hardware market, at least in terms of installed base. The forecast predicts 10.6 million consoles in homes for Xbox 360, 6.8 million for PlayStation 3, and a modest 3.5 million for Wii in 2007. In 2008, Anderson suggests 15.5 million units in homes for the 360, 13.5 million for PS3, and 6.8 million for Wii. He does mention that his group expects the PS3 to win out in the installed based race in the end, perhaps in 2009.

Companies Pay Dividends?

Oh, I'm sorry. Japan. Yes, in Japan companies often pay dividends, a practice widely lost on American companies any more.

GameDaily BIZ: Nintendo Shareholders Reject Board's Dividends Proposal
The spokesman also noted that even though Nintendo maintains a relatively high dividend—the company's dividend yield is currently 2 percent, compared with an average on the Tokyo Stock Exchange of 1.15 percent—there may have been some worries from investors that the proposal would lead to lower dividends.

The news curtailed Nintendo's shares a bit, as the stock was up only 0.5 percent at 19,070 yen in the late afternoon, which is well below the Nikkei average's 1.58 percent gain.

Mobile Carriers Miss a Lot in the US

Missing out on this whole "game thing" is just one of their misses. The thing that floors me is that American's haven't really figured out that they're getting screwed when it comes to mobile phones. If you look in just about every other industrialized (industrializing) country, cell phones, cell phone games, text/data/image/video messaging, and a whole host of other things are going crazy. And no, people aren't going broke paying for these things, because they're cheaper. We just think they would be, because if they were being charged what we were, they would be. Nope, we're just so used to paying through the nose for our cell phones, we haven't asked why we don't have it.

The article mentions Sprint as being the most progressive, that's pretty funny considering that until recently getting a basic phone with your service didn't have the capability to play or download games.

GameDaily BIZ: Interview: Namco Networks' Jason Ford
Mobile gaming is continuing its meteoric rise, but it sometimes can seem that this rise is happening in spite of the carriers, and not because of them. Fundamentally, they aren't gaming companies the way the developers and publishers are, and some just don't seem to understand or appreciate the tremendous opportunity mobile gaming presents.

GDC Call for Papers

I think it's pretty funny that "take control," "relates not only to the new innovative controllers," because that wasn't really what I first thought about when I read, "take control." There are a whole lot of things needing a little control here and there. It is an important GDC, because it will be occuring at a pivotal moment in the history of the industry. Things are going to get interesting.

Game Developers Conference 2006
The theme for 2007 is "Take Control" and this relates not only to the new innovative controllers we've seen developed in recent time (like Guitar Hero, the Wii, the Sony Tilting Controller, Eye Toy 2 etc.), but also to the fact that in 2007 the developers have their hands on FINAL versions of all three consoles. For the next 5 years, many of our attendees are betting their careers on these machines and the games they enable them to make. So keep in mind that many attending will be coming from an office with next generation consoles already running their next major project and they are looking to innovate on the hardware, the new peripherals, the new online marketplaces etc.

There's also continuted interest in casual games, mobile games, PC games and handheld games.

Overall, this conference is all about sharing by dedicated, passionate, knowledgeable individuals. The event and the experience is generated by people like you, dealing with the most relevant topics that are impacting developers today. So we invite you to submit your proposals and we look forward to hearing your ideas.

Not what most developers are talking about...

I'm a bit confused, because I haven't heard ANY developers (the ultimate gamers 9 times out of 10) talking about these top three games. None. His number four (below a boxing game!) is the first that seems to have any kind of following. It's been a rough year for any console save the DS thus far. Most folks are just happy to be playing MMO's on their PC's in the mean time. Xbox Live Arcade titles are getting more attention than real Xbox 360 games. Heck, Google Video and YouTube are more commonly discussed right about now. From here it's looking slow. No wonder some of the commenters are looking back to 2005 for great games.

A+E Interactive: The best games of the year -- so far
But the first three selections qualify as extraordinary -- smart, sharp-looking and absorbing.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Welcome to the real world...

Seems like Apple folks said similar things at one time (maybe they still do). Any more they just keep doing their thing and doing it well. Who cares if people follow. Likely if you keep innovating and doing neat stuff people will go with you because you're still ahead of the game. Stop whining and finish the console up.

Sony exec accuses Microsoft of failing to innovate //
"Every time we go down a path, we look behind and [Microsoft is] right there - we just can't shake these guys," Hirai told Official PlayStation Magazine.

"I wish that they would come up with some strategies of their own, but they seem to be going down the path of everything we do."

It's not quite the same...

So, unless something drastic has changed since GDC '06, it's not quite the same thing. Not to say that there isn't something really neat going on with Xbox Live Arcade, and that from the sounds of it at least Nintendo will be doing something similar. Of course you have to compete with Mario and Sonic in that space, but still...

Xbox exec reaffirms Microsoft's commitment to digital distribution //
"Xbox Live Arcade is the Sundance Film Festival of games" - Canessa

Xbox Live Arcade - Inside the GDC 2006
The overall lifecycle of an Arcade project looks fairly similar to a traditional console title, though a bit more streamlined.

The PS3 is an Investment, not a Gaming System

I guess... It's like a down payment on fun right? I'm investing in my gaming future, which returns not in dollars (or yen), but in Blu-Ray disks filled with the promise of fun. Great idea.

GameDaily BIZ: Stringer: You're Paying for PS3's "Potential"
"The price of the PS3 is high," he acknowledged, "but you're paying for potential."

He continued, "Obviously, it's a higher-risk strategy -- as all new inventions are -- but if the PS3 lives up to its total potential, then I don't think anyone will be worried about Nintendo or Xbox's cheaper price."

In-Sourcing and Breaking Licensing...

Interesting read. It seems that EA learned from the mistakes of others during the early days of the NES, SNES, and Genesis. Thank goodness for them the DMCA hadn't been passed yet.

GameDaily BIZ: EA's Bing Gordon on Game Design Education, Industry Challenges & More
In some cases, EA is outsourcing, and in some cases we are "in-sourcing" to EA employees in other locations.


EA's biggest risk was preparing to launch a lineup of games for the
Sega Genesis without a license. We reverse-engineered the electronics
in a "clean room" environment, because Sega wouldn't give us licensee
terms that we could live with. If this had not worked, and the games
hadn't sold, (Sega agreed to license terms the evening before our
public introduction of games), EA would probably have gone the way of
early computer game leaders like Broderbund and Sierra. It was truly a
"bet the company" decision.


That blu-ray thing. It's gonna sting. Check out some tech-spec documentation on 1x speed blu-ray DVD readers. Not good. Heck, Sony doesn't need to go back to beta-max, look at UMD!

Business 2.0: 10 people who don't matter - Jun. 22, 2006

Like Good Games?

Or games they want to play. The kinds of games to a large extent are the "problem." Genre. The author mentions women playing cell phone games. What about women playing on a Nintendo DS? What about women playing GBA's? Genre.

The Escapist - Asexuality Actually
There's something else keeping women from games rather than the way women are presented in them.

PA and PAX

The strange role that PA has come to occupy in the game industry. They're the most visible, funny, and written/drawn commentators on the state of the game industry. On a related note... MTV has put them on the ballot for the 10 most influential gamers of all time. The fact that PA is probably one of the most visited web-sites by game developers makes them a force in the industry, whether they want to be or not.

GameDaily BIZ: PAX Sells Out of Space, Names Keynote
Penny Arcade Inc. today announced that its upcoming Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) has sold out of exhibit space. This includes companies such as Microsoft, Nintendo, and Ubisoft. Alex St. John, current manager of WildTangent, will deliver a keynote entitled "The Prehistory of Xbox," detailing the nascent period for the console.

What They Really Meant Was...

Much like other areas of software development, the current focus of game developers of outsourcing "production" work ignores a great deal of the reality of globalization. While they're right that it can reduce costs of next-gen game development work, the reality is that much like Apple has found outsourcing to be less cost-effective as the developing economies develop, new industries are being created in the process. Outsourcing provides companies with a source of income while they develop their own industries. This is precisely what you're beginning to see in India. While movie companies have been outsourcing movie FX to India for years now, these same companies have seen an opportunity to do similar work for game companies. Does this mean that they'll be content to just make content for American companies? I don't think so. As the middle-class grows in these contexts, demand for local content will grow. Why do you think mobile games and web-games are growing so rapidly in India and China?

While they're right that in the short term it will offers companies who must fill up next-gen consoles with hi-resolution, hi-capacity content, in the long term it is going to create competing markets. If American/Japanese companies aren't recognizing this, they had better. Todays production work becomes tomorrows new intellectual property.

GameDaily BIZ: GDC Focus On: Game Outsourcing Summit
Today, the CMP Game Group announced a GDC Focus On: Game Outsourcing Summit. The event will take place on August 14, 2006 at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott. The summit, being billed as the only one of its kind in the gaming industry, will discuss how outsourcing is becoming more fiscally prudent with next-gen game design.

"Game outsourcing presents both opportunities and challenges to videogame development. In some cases, outsourced development has helped reduce costs and improve efficiencies for the production cycle. In other cases, the complexities of outsourcing have inhibited the process," said Neil Kent, regional conference director, CMP Technology. "The GDC Focus On: Game Outsourcing Summit will bring together key players with first-hand knowledge of, and experience with, outsourcing so that attendees leave better prepared to make critical production decisions."

Globalization and QoL in the Game Industry

Yes, I'm the meeting minutes recorder, so I've got a whole host of opinions on what went on at the meeting, but it first and foremost was a really great discussion on QoL in a very contextualized setting. Its one thing to talk about QoL in a broad context, and another to listen to people who live and work in the same area as you getting together to talk about it. I was really impressed by the level of thought and activism present at this IGDA meeting. For being someone removed from the hustle and bustle of the industry on the west coast, Albany area game developers have really taken this issue on.

I mentioned it at the meeting, but in my recent telephone and email exchanges with Indian game developers, QoL as a general industry level concern is not limited to the United States. I haven't had a chance to be in India and see crunch happen, but I'm sure I will during the next year when I visit Bangalore and Mumbai. Just in my initial conversations with developers in India, their level of concern about these issues, even as the industry is just beginning to form is very interesting. I'm curious what level of concern Chinese game developers have about QoL?

The next two years will likely have a significant impact on the structure of the game industry, and the lives of the people working in it. These particular questions are going to play out more and more directly in the lives of American programmers, and not necessarily in obvious ways. It's something that that INTERNATIONAL Game Developers Association needs to make sure they are paying attention to.

Albany IGDA Chapter: Meeting Report: Tuesday, June 20th, 2006
Globalization and Corporate Profiles of QoL

Friday, June 23, 2006

World Series of Video Games Responds to Frag Dolls and PMS Clan

"... the WSVG shot back, saying, "...the WSVG may feel compelled to run another Miss WSVG competition as well."

What? Hold another competition that doesn't suck? Now that's getting nasty! Oh, or maybe they'll just make it more condescending, which would better prove the point of these two clans. Great idea. Maybe you can roll around and throw a tantrum too.

Frag Dolls, PMS boycott Miss WSVG contest - News at GameSpot
When the World Series of Video Games announced that it would be holding
a Miss WSVG contest, the only game-related requirement for contestants
asked for the girl's favorite game. That didn't sit too well with
serious girl gamers the Frag Dolls and the PMS clan, which protested
the first regional competition held in Louisville, Kentucky, this past
weekend. Rather than cramp the WSVG's style, PMS (Pandora's Mighty
Soldiers) and the Frag Dolls boycotted the competition and decided to
put their own spin on the event by holding a Mr. WSVG competition.


In a press release today, the WSVG shot back, saying, "The [Frag Dolls and PMS clan] have stated that they plan to run another Mr. WSVG competition in [the tour's next stop in] Dallas. If this happens, and in order to be fair, the WSVG may feel compelled to run another Miss WSVG competition as well."

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Not Just 'Filling Up' a Console, Overflowing It

This article is a little old, but still good. I saw it linked on the Gamewatch forums. It got me thinking to something that I've been wondering about for a while now. Game development on consoles is something that I've been particularly interested. For many reasons, but one of those reasons has been the drive for developers to use every aspect of a console, to push it to do things it was never meant to do. Not only is it hard for indie game makers to develop games for these new consoles, it's hard for them to really push those new consoles to do anything new. Think back to Super Mario Bros. versus Super Mario Bros. 3. There was something very impressive about how far the graphics had come, on the same system. The same is true for the PS2, no matter how old the system is, it can be pushed to do new things. If we're struggling to just fill up these new consoles, how can we push them beyond their intended limits?

It's not just about adding verts or increasing texture counts. There something more about pushing the hardware. Why did God of War do so well? Well, it looked good, but the game-play pushed our ideas of what games could do on the PS2. Doesn't every really great game do this? This is really why so many people are excited about the Wii.

Why there are no indie video games. By Luke O'Brien
For today's indie developer, a safety net is just as important as a good idea. Stardock, the company behind the hit PC strategy game Galactic Civilizations, gets most of its revenue from sales of office software. Other indies make deals with the government to work on defense technology then plow these funds back into game development.

Why should gamers and industry bigwigs care if it's tough for the little guy? Because back when games were cheaper to make, the independents came up with the ideas that moved the business forward. Richard Garriott peddled Ultima, the first major role-playing title, in plastic bags. Sid Meier's Civilization and Westwood's Dune II cracked open the strategy genre. Id Software's John Carmack and John Romero created the pioneering first-person shooter Doom. Will Wright gave us SimCity and open-ended "sandbox" simulations.

Friday, June 16, 2006

I *HEART* The Escapist

The Escapist is always full of good news and commentary on the video game industry. This month's issue is no different. I think the "answer" to piracy issues in China will be the development of a Chinese software industry. However, this software industry isn't going to look a whole lot like the US based software/game industry. It's going to be that mish-mash of ideas, which shouldn't surprise us.

The thing that Chinese companies have realized is that piracy is rampant. So they make web-based and embeded software. Cell phone games are exploding. Web-based games are exploding.

The Escapist - 电玩世间
Ironically, China's high piracy rates make this much, much easier. While American companies might pay thousands of dollars for tools like compilers, source control and art design programs, the cost is virtually

zero in China's little-enforced software environment. And Chinese companies may soon be able to pirate legitimately, noted Fishman, thanks to the so called "triangle-trade," where other countries help China work on open-source alternatives to popular computer programs in order to undermine American software engineering dominance.

Not to Defend EA...

So, I'm not one to readily jump out and defend game companies on slips, but I've got to wonder how many "change orders" would have happened if EA was running like any other contracted software developer. How ticked off would LucasArts have been if every time they changed their mind on a feature or scope element EA had turned around and issued a change order and corresponding budget adjustment.

I certainly don't know all of the story here, but it's my guess that it's not JUST an EA thing. I'd be curious to know when they were provided with all of the elements (assets) needed to do their work. This would be a great story to have open up a bit more. What if the schedule slipped because they're trying to not work their employees 100 hours a week?

GameDaily BIZ: LucasArts President Slams EA
"There's an attitude in this industry that says in order to make a great game, it takes whatever time it takes and it takes whatever money it takes, and that that's okay," Ward commented. "Well it's not okay -- it's wrong. It's not okay in other entertainment businesses. In other businesses it's big trouble."

Thursday, June 15, 2006

So... What About Those Effects?

I'm currently wondering. What would we do if we discovered, that media does effect children? What if media effected adults? What would that mean? Surgeon general warnings on televisions, game boxes, magazines, books, libraries? Even if you could prove that media-saturated environments do bad things to children, how would one go about making changes? It seems like we've put the cart in front of the horse. Shouldn't one understand how media is produced as well as how it is consumed? If you wanted to change the media or the saturation level, can you go about it without really knowing anything about where either of those things come from?


Gamasutra - Clinton Reiterates Need For Study On Effects Of Media

Day in the Life of a Game Engineer

One of the most interesting comments he makes is that as Square Enix grows, he expects that schedules will become more normal. I'm curious at what point that is expected to happen, and what sort of hours will become the norm. While 11am - 10pm is only (ONLY?) 11 hours, I'll be curious what length of time will become the new normal. He mentions clocking out at 8pm (which would make a normal 8.5 hour day and 0.5 hour lunch) sometimes, which seems more reasonable, but I suspect this is the exception, and not the rule.

Gamasutra - Feature - "Day in the Life: Fumiaki Shiraishi, Programmer, Square Enix"

The ESRB is not the MPAA of Video Games

News flash: games are rated upon disclosure. I know a great many people understand this point. A great many more do not. There is no one at the ESRB who sits down and plays every game from start to finish. Some games don't even have a predictable start and finish. Could you imagine trying to "finish" Second Life? So while encouraging companies to do better self reporting is an important component of improving what the ESRB does, it's not quite that simple.

Often times the scope and playable components of a game will change. Not only will they change, they will do so in a very short amount of time just prior to the shipment of a game. With such tight timelines and companies pressed to shove as much content as possible into every game, it is quite possible that people will unwittingly not disclose elements which were thought to have been removed. Much as seems to have been the case in this whole "hot coffee" thing.

At the same time, perhaps it will encourage companies to do more play testing and even "hack testing" of games prior to shipment. While hackability isn't necessarily a concern on console systems, it is extremely important on the PC side. It intrigues me that the very capabilities which provide opportunity for MODer's are those elements which are more and more often going to be removed from games as issues like this increase.

ESRB promises heavy fines for publisher nondisclosure //

EA Gets it Right, and MS is off the Mark

Pop quiz. Which market is expanding the most quickly? Asia and East Asia? or Europe? EA clearly sees the writing on the wall with the massive adoption of gaming in Asia and East Asia, but MS is still convinced that they've got to find all of the hard-core gamers hiding out in Europe. It should be interesting. What I'm curious about however is if as development in Asia and East Asia happens, what platforms will they be happening on, and how many "Asian" games are going to be getting developed, and by whom?

The thing is, Asia and East Asia may not be interested in playing EA's latest NFL or driving titles. Now, I know this is a gross understatement about EA's catalog, but I'll be curious about what they're developing for these markets. The second aspect is platforms. Web and mobile gaming are the big markets in Asia and East Asia. While console adoption is on the rise, cell phones and internet café's are clearly the dominant markets. I'm also curious about developers? Are there going to be development houses in these areas as well, or is EA going to try and develop these games with American/European developers? Certainly the number of studios in these areas with access to development hardware (DevKits) is not at the level it in in Europe and the United States.

MS on the other hand knows that they can readily develop games that will be consumed by European players, more than likely by first looking at the PC games already succeeding. While this is a reasonable aproach, it's going to leave them vulnerable in a year or two once they've exhausted themselves with an existing market rather than expanding into new ones.

EA Looks East //
Next-gen battle will be won or lost in Europe, says MS developer //

ea_spouse Speaks in Albany on QoL Issues

Regardless of your thoughts on "crunch" in the game industry, ea_spouse's methods, or the state of the game industry, this will be a very interesting talk. I've been following the IGDA's work on quality of life (QoL) issues for a while now, and I'm intrigued. It will be interesting to see how this issue is addressed over a longer period of time, and the ways in which it shapes the future of the game industry. It will also be intriguing to see if this movement amongst video game developers is able to reach more broadly, because compulsory non-paid overtime is not something that only affects the game industry.

At the same time, these issues have drastic implications for how some people in the game industry think about issues like outsourcing, and it is important to understand how as the game industry continues to globalize, movements like these will struggle to frame what it is they're doing in a way that draws in a broader group of supporters.

Albany IGDA Chapter: Meeting Announcement: Tuesday, June 20th, 2006