Global Game Industry News Blog

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

He Meant, "consumer indifference to VIDEO games."

I make the distinction, because I suspect that if you look at unit sales for something like... Cranium, you'll find that consumers do like and do purchase games. Even ... *gasp* girls!

Honestly I think they know that, and that is part of what they're trying to change here. But it takes an awareness that lots of people like lots of games, it's particularly the genre of games being produced right now that is the issue.

GameDaily BIZ: Iwata: Wii Want Your Mom
It's clear that Nintendo is going on a hugely different path from its competition, but don't use the word "competition" when referring to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Iwata said. "We are not battling Sony or Microsoft. Our enemy is consumer indifference to games," he explained.

Perhaps the Big Bucks of the Game Industry can Force a Change?

The software industry on it's own hasn't been able to push for any renovations to the U.S.'s achingly outdated patent system. Perhaps the game industry can. Certainly the patent office has been a fixture in the game industry for a while now, but as time goes on, you'll see more of this kind of stuff.

The pressure point I suspect will be on sample implementations. Companies who take out patents must actually implement the concept, it can't be purely theoretical. There must be an application. For an example check out Nintendo's patents on certain concepts, always shortly followed up by design patents.

GameDaily BIZ: Beware the Patent Troll
Here is a glimpse of some patents of which you may want to take note.

  • U.S. Pat. 6,200,138: "Game display method, moving direction, indicating method, game apparatus and drive simulating apparatus," assigned to Sega (a game display method displays a driving game which permits characters to be present in a city and can prevent cruel images of collisions with characters).
  • U.S. Patent No. 6,695,694: "Game machine, game device, control method, information storage medium, game distribution device and game distribution method," assigned to Konami Co. (a control method for controlling a game machine allowing a player to enjoy stepping while listening to game music, comprises the steps of detecting whether or not the player puts their foot or feet on each of a plurality of step positions).
  • U.S. Patent No. 6,729,954: "Battle method with attack power based on character group density," assigned to Koei Co. (a character group battle method which can express uneven distribution of attack power, defense strength or the like that is unevenly distributed in a group comprising a plurality of characters is provided).

Concerned? You should be.

Patent litigation is expensive with each party on average crossing the seven-digit line in trial preparation costs. However, there are steps you can take to reduce the possibility of a patent claim successfully being brought against you. For instance, you can conduct a search of existing patent filings for the critical aspects of any new product prior to development. For example the '954 patent held by Koei Co. described above covers a particular method to simulate battle. Once a search uncovers patents that may address your technology, you should evaluate whether to make adjustments to more certainly fall outside the scope of the patent. If adjustments to your game are impractical or not possible, your patent attorney can help you determine whether the patent is valid and, if so, the likelihood of success if the patent is enforced against your product. While such patent opinions are not inexpensive, they can insulate you from a later claim of willful infringement. A court may treble damages if willful infringement is found. Patent counsel can also help determine whether you should attempt to obtain a license from the patent owner. In some cases, it may be better to obtain permission from the patent owner at the development stage, rather than risk your substantial investment of time and money by developing a game under a patent cloud. Keep in mind that patents can issue after many years in the patent office and surprise the owners of well-established games.

Another way to fend off patent litigation is by obtaining your own patent. The video game industry is a booming business. However, as the sales of video games soar, the number of patents filed in this space remains flat. The industry appears not to have grasped the defensive value of patents. Patents can provide bargaining power and may create cross-licensing opportunities. Not only can you use your patent as a sword against infringers, but a patent can also act as a shield by encouraging cross-licensing programs as a resolution to infringement actions and discourage others from bringing a patent action in the first place if the plaintiff might be subject to a counter-infringement claim.

It is no longer necessary to sell video games to be profitable in the video game industry. Taking their cue from patent plaintiffs in other industries, some patent trolls generate revenue solely by enforcing their patents rather than developing and selling products. After working so hard to create an innovative product, you should carefully evaluate ways to protect yourself from patent litigation or else you could reach the GAME OVER stage before you even begin to really play.


What About the Controller?

Sounds great. Can I use my current controller on the 360? Wii? You gonna make adapters?

Activision confirms Guitar Hero to go multiformat //
Kotick confirmed that Guitar Hero would appear "on every significant new format", while discussing intentions for yearly updates and building franchises across a number of key Activision titles.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

GH on the Wii Too I Suspect!

Activision has long been a supporter of multiple platforms. I suspect that you'll see GH in a revised incarnation on the Wii, Xbox 360, and possibly later on the PS3. The difficult component of this is that you have to have different connectors for each of your distributed guitars. I also presume that there will be demand for wireless controllers on systems that support it. All three platforms will support network connectivity, so perhaps you'll be able to purchase new songs, a long coveted feature. The trouble is, where will you put them all?

GameDaily BIZ: Guitar Hero Goes Multi-Platform
According to numerous Internet reports, Activision's CEO and Chairman Robert Kotick revealed that Guitar Hero will release on every format deemed "significant." This was revealed during a keynote address at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia XV Conference. It was not announced which platforms Guitar Hero will be coming to specifically, but the release will apparently come in 2007.

This announcement comes on the heels of rumors that state that Guitar Hero will be coming to the Xbox 360 in early 2007. RedOctane, the game's publisher, has yet to release an official statement on the matter. Guitar Hero II will release on PS2 in November 2006.

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Growth of the Global Video Game Market

It is impressive that 50% of EA's revenue came from outside of the US. I would be interested in similar numbers from Blizzard, unfortunately because they are sitting inside of Vivendi (who seems to be coasting on the success of World of Warcraft) we can't actually see these numbers. The fact that EA is opening pursuing new markets is a strategic move that will have long lasting effects. Their operations in China are surely a long term strategy.

"50% of '06 revenue outside North America" - EA //
"This year, more than 50 per cent of our revenue is coming from outside North America," said Tascan. "Exporting to 'outside' is very, very important, and a big part of your business."

He illustrated the point by pointing towards explosive network technology usage in China, where more than 260 million internet users now exist, and claimed Scandinavia will be among one of the global development hotspots in the next 10 years.

"We're very actively looking for partners in Scandinavia," he said. "We believe the quality of the entertainment here is incredible."

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Mii Avatar on the Wii eh?

This will be interesting. I wonder if Wii owners/players will start carrying around their Wii-motes with their avatars on board so that when they wind up at a friends house they can play Wii-games with their personalized Wii-vatar.

Fils-aime details Wii Channels //
Users are able to create their own avatar using the 'Mii' channel, which can then be stored in the Wii remote control and imported into games.

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MTV Executives Deliver Approved Blurbs on Harmonix Acquisition

While it isn't surprising that MTV has acquired Harmonix, I was fairly amazed at the near identical character of two different quotes taken from this article. They're impressively similar.

MTV acquires Harmonix for USD $175 million //
"The acquisition of Harmonix will deepen MTV's connection to its audience via online, mobile and console music gaming, and expand the relationship with both labels and artists through the creation of games based on classic songs as well as future album releases," said Christina Norman, president of MTV.
"The acquisition of Harmonix advances MTV Networks' strategy of connecting with target audiences by creating immersive, multi-platform environments that extend to every device they use," said Judy McGrath, chairman and CEO, MTV Networks.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Apple Stepping into Game Space

This combined with other recent reports regarding improved OpenGL numbers in the latest builds of OS X, could mean some interesting times ahead. I don't believe I've mentioned it openly on my blog, but I suspect that Apple and Nintendo are thinking about some kind of collaboration. It would certainly be interesting to see Nintendo with their library of games up for distribution on the Wii network, that some might be available on the iTMS. Given their recent patent of emulation technologies on "limited computational capacity" systems, which certainly sounds like an iPod.

Just blind conjecture, but it doesn't make un-sense.

Apple enters games space with seven iPod titles //
The full list of titles includes familiar names, with Pac-Man, Tetris, Mahjong, Bejeweled, Zuma, Cubis 2, Texas Hold 'em, Mini Golf and Vortex all now available.

With Namco, Electronic Arts, PopCap, FreshGames and Apple itself supplying content, the move has been instantly seen as a confident stride into the casual games market, a view fuelled by the fact that iPod is already ubiquitous with mobile entertainment.

Although some third-party coders have ported popular games in the past, the move from Apple confirms a commitment to the games market, as rumoured back in May of this year.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Nintendo Spanks Sony and Joystiq Rocks the Casbah

This is actually pretty big news. While production continues to be a question for the PS3, it's obvious that Nintendo is well along the path to releasing the Wii. This also means that developers have been starting to get full-fledged final-version dev-kits since this time. Certainly better than Sony has been doing. Again, it's important to keep in mind that the Wii pipeline is a much more "known entity" to developers, and rather than figuring out what the heck to do with the hardware, many are spending time thinking about what to do with those controls.

It is a little uncanny to me that Nintendo and Apple are having big annoucements the same week. I guess this is probably wild speculation on my part, but certainly based on recent patents and other posturing, it wouldn't surprise me.

Shipment of Broadway for Wii has been well underway; hint of power revealed - Joystiq
So what does this news mean to gamers who have been waiting patiently for a release date from Nintendo? Well, considering that Nintendo has had their hands on a large amount of the final Broadway chips since July, we can easily speculate that the Wii could feasibly be released within the next few weeks. Perhaps by the end of the month.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Nintendo: Have a MP3 Player for 30 Euros. Sony: Go buy your own HDMI cable.

So, I read a lot about how people are being overly harsh on Sony right about now. Maybe its because Sony has their head planted firmly up someone or somethings backside. If you're going to release a console that is "all about HD" shouldn't you allow it to work with an HD system? Maybe I'm just crazy.

Nintendo confirms MP3 player for DS //
"It's just like the Play Yan, where you insert an SD card into a GBA cart-sized adaptor," a Nintendo spokesperson explained.

"That is then inserted into either your DS, DS Lite, GBA SP or GB Micro - turn it on and away you go."

Nintendo has yet to confirm whether the MP3 player will come complete with an SD card. A 1GB SD card, which can hold approximately 240 songs, currently retails for around 30 Euro.

PS3 set to ship without HDMI cable //
That's according to the specs page on the official US PS3 website, which notes: "HDMI cable not included. Additional equipment may be required to use the HDMI connector."

Sony has long promoted the 60GB PS3's HDMI output as a key feature of the machine. The 20GB model, however, does not feature HDMI - and nor does Microsoft's rival Xbox 360 console.

SCE UK declined to comment on whether the 60GB PS3 will also ship without a HDMI cable here. However, sources close to Sony speculate that Europe will follow the US example by not including a cable in the box, due to the fact that the majority of console purchasers will not own a HDMI-ready TV - and those that do will already own a HDMI lead.

Symptom of a Downer

In part this is about the difference between "learn and run" and "learn and stay." I think one of my informants said it best, "just don't become a critic." It's easy to take pot-shots from the sidelines, I think it's harder to effect real change in a space like this, where there is significant momentum, as well as some major dollars. All of that makes it difficult to steer things. Erin has definitely planted herself firmly in the "learn and stay" camp, and I think the industry will be that much better because of her vigilance and effort.

The Escapist - Why We Haven't Lapsed
There was a gloom at this year's GDC that hadn't shown its face in years. Rather than being a rallying cry for growth and change, the "Game Developers' Rant" had too much genuine bitterness, too much fear, to spark drive or any real discussion. I heard veteran developers mutter that the industry really was on its way out.
The game industry is alive and well, and it ain't going anywhere. Neither, for that matter, are many of the developers. Some of the best and brightest people I have ever met work - present tense - in the game industry. The golden lure that yanked me away from graduate school and into games had nothing to do with the "glamour" or any idiotic pipe dream about fame and fortune - it had to do with the people.

But we are bleeding talent at a horrendous rate. This is the real bogeyman for the actual development of games, and it is a big problem that brilliant, creative students are taking one look at industry working conditions and making a bee line for Microsoft. One of the caps on all of the recent doomsaying was another blog that hit the shared internet mind: Danc's "Joyful Life of a Lapsed Game Developer." Man, talk about a downer.
Make no mistake, I'll be the last one to excuse the industry for its sins, but I'm also not going to stand for all-out mutiny founded on flimsy reasoning. If the industry is hurting, it's up to us to heal it, not shrug and start writing bank software for better pay. Sure, I'd love to be making the big bucks, and it's a choice I could have made. Some years back, I was offered the chance to apprentice under a stockbroker at a major investment firm. I turned it down, and as my uncle said, you can make money or you can be happy. And if you're in it for the money, what the hell are you doing attempting something creative, anyway?

The Draw of Reinvention

Lately I've wondered what precisely it is about the game industry (or any industry for that matter) and its interest in/draw to reinvention. It's something you don't hear all the time, something that many employees in the game industry talk about, reinvention.

Ubisoft MD predicts bright future for games industry //
"The games industry constantly invents and reinvents itself through the development of new technologies, and increasingly, more imaginative, inspired and innovative game content."