Global Game Industry News Blog

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Of All the People to Call a Tool of the Industry...

Jason Della Rocca is pretty low on my list. In my dealings with him, he's done more to earn enemies in the industry, but none the less has managed to be a spokesperson for developers around the world. Not really a person I'd expect to see being challenged as a talking head for the video game industry.

I think Jack's biggest problem is that he doesn't actually bother to read anything or actually pay attention to the world around him. Evidence is of no consequence, he's already reached his verdict before a case even begins. Take Jason for example.

Just look through the archives of RealityPanic, the IGDA, or at what he speaks about at events like GDC or the innumerable other events he attends. He talks about reading more / doing more (I heard what you meant...), it's about quality of life, it's about globalization, it's about real issues facing both developers and non-developers alike. To boil him down to "industry (scare quotes) 'spokesperson'" is just silly.

Jack really needs to just read a little bit more and flap his lips a lot less. Those brain scans he's talking about are unproven science. Most psych studies looking at violence and games are inconclusive at best. Most simply call for more studies because they didn't get good conclusive results.

Jason is right. This is a bigger issue than games. It's cultural. It's complicated. But obviously that doesn't please Jack, because he might have to actually read some of these studies then. What about other causes of violence, like religion? Don't see Jack on a crusade (no pun intended) there do we?

I wish we could just ignore him, but the truth is that media outlets like the attention they get from bringing extremists into full view. What it's really going to take is a concerted effort to review all of this material. Who's conducting the studies? Who's funding the studies? What kind of results do they have? Then at any moment he gets up to speak you simply bring these results to bear on his arguments.

Of Idiots, Jackasses and Red Herrings
Gotta say, being called an idiot (advisedly) and a jackass on national news by Jack Thompson feels like a special milestone for me. Not so much for the name calling, but just to see good old Jack get all flustered and frustrated.

Interestingly, despite his flat out attempt to ridicule, dismiss and discredit me (as a paid puppet mouthpiece for the game industry), he emailed me with a formal challenge to an on campus debate (see full text below). That, along with a half-dozen other emails with his thoughts and pointers to articles, etc.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

IT Work Sucks Time? Game Work is Worse...

So, thinking about diversity in the video game industry is important. Most people in the video game industry think it is important. While they might qualitatively have issues about encouraging women and minorities, what I think is interesting is that for the most part people haven't linked up the Quality of Life (QoL) discussion with this.

It's obvious, game companies by and large have very little in the way of HR or infrastructure, not to mention child care or many of the things that actively discourage women from getting into the field.

If more mature IT companies haven't managed to figure it out, I'd doubt that most game companies can figure it out.

The structural conditions of the game industry are something the I hope once I've finished with my dissertation, and hopefully made the conversion into a book that it becomes a new object of discussion.

Oddly all of this homebrew and access and ... frequently comes back to the fact that by and large the video game industry has actively disabled its own mechanisms for learning from their own mistakes. Combined with churn rates and nothing in the way of institutional memory, you're bound to repeat the mistakes of the past... over and over.

Gartner - Gartner Advises IT Leaders to Recognise Complementary Gender Strengths
"Psychologists tell us that women, on average, are better than men at building trust and collaboration that underlie relationships," said Mark Raskino, research vice president and Gartner fellow. "They excel at listening, in communications and social skills and in understanding other people's views. A battle of the sexes for the important emerging skills and roles in IT would be healthy, but it's typically such a male dominated function that there's not even an active debate."

Gartner said that chief information officers (CIOs) worldwide are increasingly focused on recruiting people who can build relationships across multiple stakeholders, cultures and orientations. However, it warned they risk failure in many global initiatives if they are not able to attract and retain talented women in their IT organisations. "CIOs currently don't seem to be aware that social networking systems, vendor and portfolio management, collaborative knowledge work and several other areas in IT would benefit from typically female capability traits," said Mr Raskino.

According to Kathy Harris, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, businesses have traditionally focused on resolving gender diversity issues with a series of tools intended to get more women in business and management positions. "Most traditional programmes have looked to change the way people feel, their organisational culture or they have simply waited for women to catch-up. But it is next to impossible to change the way people feel or think and it takes years to change organisational culture. Most organisations have made little or no progress and most women will give up long before they catch up."

Ms Harris highlighted that as we are on the brink of a true global environment, diversity is not an ‘HR initiative' but an inherent factor in every exchange, conversation or meeting. This demands traits and capabilities that span established stereotypes, psychology and behaviours.

"The solution is to change the game. Given the ambitious business drivers ahead of them, businesses and IT organisations specifically can't afford to miss their objectives because they fail to attract half the talent base. Diversity is not common sense or an issue of policy; it's business survival," Ms Harris added.

Gartner concluded that IT organisations need to redevelop their capabilities and this requires the gender mix to change.

Computerworld - IT Managers Fear Growing Technical Gender Gap
Weary of answering late-night alerts and troubleshooting calls, Bethany King finally had enough. Six months ago, she closed the book on a 12-year stretch as an IT storage administration professional to become an IT auditor.

"I had a 14-year-old daughter that I didn't want to leave alone at 3 a.m.," said King, who was allowed to shift to the more flexible IT job at The Empire District Electric Co., a Joplin, Mo.-based electricity supplier.

"That really was one of the reasons I got out. I could've made it work, but it's just a choice that I made not to," she added, noting that her husband is a firefighter who works various shifts.
Some attendees noted that not only are women leaving such jobs, few are showing interest in joining the expanding profession.

The U.S. economy is expected to add 1.5 million IT jobs by 2012, according to Department of Labor statistics. At the same time, Stamford, Conn.-based research firm Gartner Inc. predicts that by 2012, 40% of women now in the IT workforce will move away from technical career paths to pursue more flexible business, functional, and research and development careers.
Dot Brunette, network and storage manager at Meijer Inc., a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based retailer and a 30-year IT veteran, said that women are tending to migrate out of IT-related storage jobs because of their long hours and the demands that users of such technology can place upon them.

"IT is very much a culture and it consumes a lot of time," said Brunette. "I think women in that regard are at a real disadvantage." She noted that companies can fail to attract female workers, or see them leave key IT jobs because they fail "to provide day care at work, or work-at-home options for someone who leaves to have a child."

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Sony, Homebrew, and the PSP/PS3 - A Dose of REALITY CALL

Everyone seems to be picking up on some of Phil Harrison's comments on Slashdot the other day. Oddly he comments on precisely the issue that I pitched to "The Escapist Magazine" a few months back, which they declined...

Anyway, hopefully he doesn't regret the comment, which was relatively brief, but has spurred a firestorm of media reaction. Most of it has been positive, but picked up on the differentiation of "Homebrew is sometimes a misused term and so for the purposes of this answer I will exclude pirates and hackers with illegal intentions from the definition." This was exactly what I was getting at when I pitched to The Escapist that emulation and the frequent homebrew emphasis of getting emulators up and running on homebrew systems as a process that tends to hinder rather then enable the homebrew scene.

I think one important difference that should be made and seems to be getting conflated in the coverage of this is that Sony has yet to actually announce anything here. The comparison to Microsoft and XNA has been made, but XNA Express is actually available to developers right now. Today. Not some vague plan in the future. We hear rumblings like this all the time from Sony and Nintendo, but as of now we haven't seen a single indicator that something will be released even in the next six months. By that time XNA Express will have been available for nearly a year.

That being said, Nintendo and Sony could benefit from releasing tools that don't require developers to be locked into a proprietary language like C#, which Microsoft has done. It would also be nice if they were interested in supporting open standards like OpenGL, Cg, or any of the other various standards, in favor of Microsoft's DX10 thrust.

All in all it is nice to hear executives at Sony thinking about this.

I'll actually be giving a talk at MiT5 (Media in Transition) at MIT this weekend in Boston on this very topic.

Slashdot - Phil Harrison Answers Your Questions
4.) 'Homebrew Gaming' by Anonymous Coward, maynard, and flitty
If someone manages to get homebrew games running on the PS3, will there be firmware updates to stop this kind of development, to protect your software developers, or is homebrew something you are planning on and even encouraging? Is there a chance that the policy of restricting access to PS3 graphics hardware (via the hypervisor) could be revised to encourage us homebrew developers? How does this strategy differ from your strategy with PSP homebrew? Has Sony considered offering kernel patches and an RSX optimized OpenGL library for PS3/Linux?

Phil Harrison: Now, let me first say that Homebrew is sometimes a misused term and so for the purposes of this answer I will exclude pirates and hackers with illegal intentions from the definition.

I fully support the notion of game development at home using powerful tools available to anyone. We were one of the first companies to recognize this in 1996 with Net Yaroze on PS1. It's a vital, crucial aspect of the future growth of our industry and links well to the subtext of my earlier answers. When I started making games on the Commodore 64 in the 1980's, the way I learned to make games was by re-writing games that appeared in magazines. Really the best bit about a C64 was when you turned it on it said "Ready?" with a flashing cursor - inviting you to experiment. You'd spend hours typing in the code, line-by-line, and then countless hours debugging it to make it work and then you'd realise the game was rubbish after all that effort! The next step was to re-write aspects of the game to change the graphics, the sound, the control system or the speed of the gameplay until you'd created something completely new. I might share this with a few friends but not for commercial gain at that time. But the process itself was invaluable in helping me learn to program, to design graphics, animations or sounds and was really the way I opened doors to get into the industry. Now, those industry doors are largely closed by the nature of the video game systems themselves being closed. So, if we can make certain aspects of PS3 open to the independent game development community, we will do our industry a service by providing opportunities for the next generation of creative and technical talent. Now having said all that, we still have to protect the investment and intellectual property rights of the industry so we will always seek the best ways to secure and protect our devices from piracy and unauthorized hacking that damages the business.

Gamasutra - Sony's Harrison Embraces Homebrew Development
Harrison prefaced his answer to the question of whether firmware updates would prevent the running of homebrew software by stating that he would “exclude pirates and hackers with illegal intentions” from the definition of homebrew.

Although the phrase homebrew has never commonly been understood to include such activities, Harrison’s implication that it might could explain Sony’s continual aggressive attempts to lock out unlicensed software from use on the PSP.

In regards to the PlayStation 3, Harrison appears more sympathetic, saying, "I fully support the notion of game development at home using powerful tools available to anyone. We were one of the first companies to recognize this in 1996 with Net Yaroze on PS one. It's a vital, crucial aspect of the future growth of our industry."
"The process itself was invaluable in helping me learn to program, to design graphics, animations or sounds and was really the way I opened doors to get into the industry. Now, those industry doors are largely closed by the nature of the video game systems themselves being closed", he admitted.

"So, if we can make certain aspects of PS3 open to the independent game development community, we will do our industry a service by providing opportunities for the next generation of creative and technical talent", stated Harrison.

GameDaily.BIZ - Harrison: Homebrew Development Vital to Future Growth of Industry
Harrison also talked a bit about his own vision for the future of the industry. "I want to see the audience of people who play videogames, of any type, on any device, include practically anyone on the planet. Whether it be an immersive action game that appeals primarily to young adults, or a casual game that is enjoyed by the entire family, I hope that videogames and electronic forms of interactive entertainment continue to expand to new audiences, all the time. Linked to that, I want to see videogames given more credibility as a mainstream form of entertainment through appropriate cultural commentary and criticism," he said.

"What I hope is that 20 years from now... videogames as a pastime will be given the same cultural and social currency as a book, a film, a TV show or a piece of architecture," he added. "After all, the popular culture creators of 20 years from now will all, largely, have grown up playing, or at least being intimately aware of, videogames. The writers and commentators on those same popular culture creators will all have had the same experience playing videogames growing up - at which point the circle is complete. I don't think there is a culmination to this overall vision - it will be a constant process. Each successive platform brings new technology to the experience of games and helps expand the audience still further. I hope PS3 will be seen 20 years from now as a crucial influence in the growth of our industry."

GamesIndustry.BIZ - Harrison hints at PlayStation 3 homebrew plans
"I fully support the notion of game development at home using powerful tools available to anyone," Harrison said in an interview with Slashdot.

"We were one of the first companies to recognise this in 1996 with Net Yaroze on PS1. It's a vital, crucial aspect of the future growth of our industry."
But he admits that these days the doors into the industry that might be opened by going through that process "are largely closed by the nature of the videogame systems themselves being closed".

"So, if we can make certain aspects of PS3 open to the independent game development community, we will do our industry a service by providing opportunities for the next generation of creative and technical talent," he added.

While Sony has encouraged legitimate independent development in some areas - notably with Net Yaroze with, in this generation, Beyond Playstation - it has been accused of adopting a heavy-handed strategy in its dealings with PSP developers, with legitimate or at least non-threatening projects often struck down by firmware updates designed to lock out pirates and the hackers who facilitate piracy.

Harrison's interest in allowing for homebrew development puts Sony on a similar path to Microsoft, which recently launched its XNA package of tools. XNA offers the ability to develop games on both PC and Xbox 360, with a complementary educational focus that will plug game development modules into a number of university courses.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

User Generated "CONTENT" (?)

So, there has been a whole lot going on recently about Game 3.0 (apparently Web 2.0 meets Video Games) (And it's really Game 1.0 = Games on Carts/CD's, Game 2.0 = Game 1.0 + Networking, Game 3.0 = Game 2.0 + User Content). As much as I am a fan of thinking about games as media, in particular because console video game systems dominate the game world so much, this isn't quite the same.

So, let's take YouTube for example. You have the ability (perhaps against other media corporations desires otherwise) to take their content and mash it your own way. Perhaps it's just a simple Anime + Music = AMV (Anime Music Video). Perhaps it's your own custom shot or computer generated material set to music. The point is that you have the ability to pull that content from somewhere else and put it at your disposal.

It's not quite the same for video games. It's especially not so much the same for video games. So, I'd like to remix that last Spidey level and redistribute on YouGame. ... ... Ummm... where do I start? Not quite the same.

Now, Little Big Planet "empowers" users by providing them with a world which they can do these things. But what if I want to change a basic mechanic to customize it a bit more? What if I want to make Little Big Nudie Planet? Not to sleight the guys making Little Big Planet, they're doing a phenomenal job, we just have to realize that it's not the same as YouTube.

This is also complicated by the fact that Web 2.0 is founded on a whole lot of things that Game 3.0 just hasn't done. Open API's, Open Protocols, things like XML, and a whole bunch of other things that really empowers users. In the case of console video games you have none of this foundational material.

In many ways I see XNA as having a greater YouTube potential, because though you end up having to do more work, as people develop tools and pieces, you'll see more (and more different) examples of this.

Nintendo and Sony (though Sony seems to be talking a lot) haven't really figured out that they're going to have to open up more than they have to really embrace this idea, and really, if they don't, MS is the one who is going to win.

What publishers are really worried about is:

Making the Social Connection: How Small Developers and Publishers Can Take On Game Industry Giants

But... Even these comments fail to really engage with the barriers of access to the technologies that really offer the most opportunity for companies to make money and build sustainable work environments.

Making the Social Connection: How Small Developers and Publishers Can Take On Game Industry Giants
According to the NPD Group, total computer and video game industry sales hit $13.5 billion in 2006, almost a 20 percent increase from the year before. The vast majority of those sales came from titles released by major publishers and distributors, not from smaller, independent developers. While we depend on the likes of EA and Ubisoft to deliver blockbusters like The Sims and Rainbow Six, we often don't recognize the importance of indie developers in fueling the creative engine of game design and production.
Remaining independent means taking on all the costs of creating, producing, marketing and distributing a title. These costs are high, and a crowded marketplace makes it even more challenging for independent developers to make their presence known. In addition, many smaller firms are made up of just a few employees, whose skills skew toward programming or animation rather than sales or business development.
Not necessarily. Since the late 1990s, some small companies have gone the direct route, selling their games online or making their titles open source as a means by which to generate a player base. For example, Positech Games, based in the U.K., was recently highlighted on the popular developers' forum, for its claims to have reached the $100,000 mark purely through online sales.
Social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook have transformed the way that independent filmmakers and musicians reach new audiences and sell their work. The next wave of social networking, a trend Sony Computer Entertainment calls "Game 3.0," will change the way independent game creators take their games to market.
But these sites lack a crucial element – game developer participation. FairShare, a new technology my company announced at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) this year, is, amongst other things, designed to connect developers with players through game-related social networking. An engine that runs underneath gaming portals, FairShare lets players sample new games through a try-before-you-buy option. It offers incentives for players to share, recommend and give feedback on new games, and it gives developers a chance to sell games, gain visibility and build their reputations among the game aficionado community.

The Game 3.0 future for independent developers will be rooted in social networks, where developers can make their games available online, players can try, buy, share, and offer feedback on the games, and developers can respond, making changes or developing new titles based on that feedback.

Just as Facebook and Myspace make every participant an owner of his or her own content on the Web, a Game 3.0 style portal must provide a sense of ownership for both players and developers. For indies, the Game 3.0 trend opens new opportunities for connecting with gamers who want to buy their titles, as well as the chance to build communities with other developers and gamers.

Game publishers threatened by user-generated content
Got an idea for a video, a song, a podcast, a game? Make it, put it online, and people will find it. We all benefit from the mind-bogglingly wide variety of stuff to consume, and the competition increases quality for everyone. The dinosaurs who have become rich off outmoded means of production and distribution are quaking in terror. Some, like SCEA president Phil Harrison, are making attempts to adapt and thrive.

What Do Media Executives Fear?
User-generated content was named by 57 percent of respondents as one of the top three issues they face today. More that 70 percent believed that social media would continue to grow, while only 3 percent said they viewed social media as a fad.
"Traditional, established content providers will have to adapt and develop new business and monetization models in order to keep revenue streams flowing. The key to success will be identifying new forms of content that can complement their traditional strengths."

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

GameDev.Net Picks up the IGDA Article

GameDev.Net seemed to pick up the article I wrote, which prompted me to check my blog site. Seems that a few rogue links snuck into the article from the time I sent it off to the IGDA and when it hit the website. I'm following up on that.

IGDA published "Quality of Life in a Global Game Industry" on their web site
When the talk which this article is based on was given at GDC 2007, it was interesting that the majority of attendees were not rank and file developers, and were instead managers and producers concerned how to handle the complex issues of QoL and a quickly globalizing video game industry. In part this reflects a broader understanding of QoL issues as being a problem which the industry must face from a top-down perspective rather than from the bottom-up. Publishers, studio managers, producers, and leads must all face QoL concerns head on. It is also the perspective of this researcher that more needs to be done at the level of hardware manufacturers to provide resources for developers to better address the complex set of issues that ultimately lead to poor QoL.

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BBC on the Game Industry

There is an excellent article on the BBC website examining the video game industry. I hate to say it, but it actually exemplifies some of the differences in coverage that can be offered from blog sites to those on new sites which have attempted to get at the deeper story, willing to take a little extra time to dig more deeply.

Consoles games
2006: $11.2bn
2007: $12.2bn
PC games
2006: $3.9bn
2007: $3.7bn
Source: Screen Digest

Games industry enters a new level
Hardware makers are losing hundreds of dollars on every console sold, and games publishers face an "increasingly difficult environment, as rising development costs and small user bases [mean] that return on investment in next generation games development is unlikely to be achieved before 2008," according to media analysts Screen Digest.

More importantly, though, the video games publishers are facing a revolution of their business model.
"Scale does matter" in this industry, says Mr Florin, because "the more complex games become" the more tools are needed "to keep costs under control".
The real money spinners are console games, but subject to the ups and downs of the hardware cycle as consoles launch or go out of fashion.

To ensure steady revenues, says Mr Florin, games publishers therefore have to build strong brands.
"Wonderful innovative titles are sometimes ignored [by consumers], while some repetitive titles with minor improvements in game play and graphics provide much better returns to the games publishers," he says.
"You only learn what you can do with these platforms over time, and as a result using 100% of Playstation 2 [PS2] is nearly as good as today's starting point of PS3 games," says Mr Florin.
Games publishers face a dilemma, though. To reduce cost, they would love to put their games on as many platforms as possible.

It used to be relatively easy to port a game from one console to the next. Nintendo's "Gamecube, the Xbox and PS2 were much more alike," says Mr Florin.

Next generation platforms are different, he says: "Now we have to have very distinctive games for each machine and can't port that much."

That plays into the hands of the console makers, who want exclusive games to lure gamers to their platform.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

IGDA Article on QoL in a Global Game Industry Live

My recent IGDA article on Quality of Life in a global game industry is now live on the IGDA website. We'll see if anyone notices. :) I try.

Quality of Life in a Global Game Industry
The rise of game development studios across the globe and the increased use of offshore and inshore outsourcing could have developers feeling like they are losing leverage in making arguments for good quality of life practices. But, does globalization and the ability to outsource work really abdicate the need for quality of life both at home or abroad?

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Developing the next God of War?

Isn't OUR Job Bigger Than This?

There is some good stuff in this article, but it really misses one of the key marks that I think differentiates the role of the academy from a strictly trade based educational institution. Teaching students to think. No where in the article is it stressed that we have to teach students to push the envelope, break new ground. Think more broadly about games. Think more broadly about interactivity. That's what really made games like Flow, Okami, or Guitar Hero interesting.

If we relegate ourselves to producing people who can only make blockbuster games, and not people that can actually push the industry further we're missing something. What about students that are willing to push new forms, styles, genres?

Our job as educators is bigger than making people that can make games. We first need to make people that can think.

Bridge Building: Making the People That Make the Games
Our task is most daunting, and very difficult to even pick a good starting point. As all of us are intimately familiar with, schools teaching students how to be game developers are now found in almost every state. With the promise of teaching the skills that will get little Billy into the games industry, comes a seemingly endless flow of over eager and unskilled, hungry for the quick education to get them on their path to developing the next God of War.


The Long Tailed Game Industry

I think the biggest limitation that the game industry is going to face if it wants to take advantage of the "long tail" effect is that currently it is impossible to get games onto anything other than the PC in a distributed fashion. Most of the major digital distribution systems only support Windows PC's and likely this will soon require Trusted Computing systems to ensure that games are not being redistributed.

While some are predicting the "death" of consoles, I suspect that what you're really going to see more of is the console-ification of PC's. More and more they are going to be closed much like PC's. Perhaps the real convergence is the loss of consumer flexibility. Serves us right, we've been going along this path for a while without realizing it.

At the same time, the power of the long tail is that it tends to fight regulation. It prefers openness, but the dominant understanding of the PC and video game console are at the other end of the spectrum. At the same moment as more companies are moving toward open models, others are further closing themselves off.

The Long Tail for Games: Survival of the Fittest?
Pick up Deux Ex today and see what I mean. We've been next-gen spoiled. I love the game, but it can't help looking awkward and primitive next to current releases. This may be overcomable: black and white films may have looked "primitive" when the transition to color was happening; but now filmmakers use it for effect, and film buffs appreciate the black and white medium for its own merits, its own beauty. Music doesn't have this problem either - those recordings made forty years ago still sound good, and in fact modern bands are playing around with recreating that garage style, that recorded-with-a-mic-in-a-coffee-can sound. Will games go retro like this too?

There are some games that don't age: Wind Waker is a stunning example of this. Because of its cel-shaded art and stylized animation, it looks just a fresh as it did when it was released. This problem is a version of the uncanny valley - the more "realistic" a game tries to look, the less successful it becomes as a representation of reality as graphics technology overtakes itself.

I have other questions about the long tail as it applies to games, too. Do game companies care enough about it to release their back catalogues? In other words, are they being paid enough to do that? Services like GameTap are of course doing a superb job of collecting and releasing a wide collection of games. I don't know what sorts of deals they are doing - for the companies, if GameTap pays anything, it's pretty much free money, so that's wonderful.
Don't Step on my Long Tail
Digital distribution and eCommerce are at the heart of what I do for a living. And nowhere is the Long Tail more at home than at the junction point of digital distribution and eCommerce. Someday, when greater volumes of content are featured on XBLA, it should turn into a perfect Long Tail paradise, right?

Well, that’s what I’m hoping for. But there are a few potential issues that muddy the waters. Some of them are issues facing all community-centric online systems. Some of them are specific to video game services. I’ll give you a couple of examples, and hopefully you can give me some ideas in return!

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Leasing my PS3's CPUs

It's interesting that Sony has completely changed their tune with the release of the PS3 from the PS2 when it comes to alternative uses of video game consoles. I suppose that happens when you're desperately looking for people to make use of your system in new and interesting ways but you haven't really given game developers enough lead time to do that.

Instead they've had to resort to using scientific computation models like Folding@Home which has been built from the beginning in a cross-platform and highly distributed model, something that is able to make good use of the multiple cores on the PS3.

Game developers on the other hand have had relatively little time to scale their applications up to systems like this, and Sony certainly didn't go out fo their way to get emulators or other tools to developers early enough for them to get themselves and their tech up to the task of working with these technologies.

I like that they're looking elsewhere, but I'm not so crazy about leasing my PS3 out for "free" stuff from Sony. I'm sure there are some distributed computing projects that need donated cycles. AIDS research? Cancer? SPAM? Let's get a bit more imaginative than "lease it!"

Sony in talks on commercial use for PS3
Sony PlayStation 3 users may soon be asked to share the supercomputer power of their video game consoles with companies that lack their own technology to run complex research projects, the Financial Times was told.

Sony Computer Entertainment is in discussions with a number of companies about possible commercial applications for the PlayStation 3. This comes in the wake of its non-profit partnership with Stanford University in March that harnesses the spare computing capacity of registered PS3s for the analysis of protein cells.

However, because this would be a commercial proposition that would benefit profit-making organisations, Sony is studying whether it would need to offer incentives, such as free products, to persuade PS3 owners to participate.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Squeezing Blood from a Stone

I'm not really sure what to make of this "turning over" that Nintendo has done for China, Hong Kong, Brazil, Mexico, and Paraquay. Brazil will likely thumb their nose at Nintendo, who isn't really marketing their stuff there anyway. If it's being pirated it's a market that Brazil has created on their own. They've also got some interesting ideas about IP law and what is fair protection. But anyway...

The fact that China cares is interesting, because it really indicates a desire on their part to play in the game.

Personally I think that if there was a little adjustment for how much games cost in these markets, so they weren't so out of whack for the average consumer you might see piracy drop. You can only really ask people to pay what they're able to.

Nintendo offers praise for US Government
Every year, the US Trade Representative solicits views from companies about piracy in foreign countries as part of the Special 301 process. This year Nintendo gave evidence about piracy in China, Hong Kong, Brazil, Mexico and Paraguay.

According to figures quoted by Nintendo, more than 7.7 million counterfeit videogame products have been seized from over 300 Chinese factories and retailers during the last ten years.
"Numerous factories, where tens of thousands of counterfeit Nintendo products were seized, escaped with only trivial fines or no penalty at all. And often these production sites continue to operate after products are seized," the statement continued.

"We're pleased the US government is pushing China to comply with its trade commitments in an effort to protect the lifeblood of the copyright and trademark industries."

China slams US piracy complaint
"By doing so, the US has ignored the Chinese government's immense efforts and great achievements in strengthening intellectual property rights protection and tightening enforcement of its copyright laws," the commissioner added.

On Monday, the US trade representative Susan Schwab said that piracy and counterfeiting levels in China remained unacceptably high.

The US said that despite China's promises to crackdown on fake software, DVDs, luxury goods, car parts and shoes, many of the goods were still widely available throughout the country.

China is one of the world's largest producers of counterfeit products, ranging from designer clothes, to pirated films and music, to luggage.

Many of the goods find their way into Europe and are knowingly bought as fakes by shoppers at markets and from street vendors. Firms claim that the poor quality copies dent their brand and divert profits and potenital clients.

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Yes, Yes, XNA Express is Cool

This is an interesting discussion from the Microsoft camp about the differences between Sony's Home and XNA Express. There is also some interesting discussion about the differences in how MS and Sony approaches their developers. I certainly think MS has an edge in that respect.

Either way it's an interesting read and insight into the worlds of developers and those that make tools for them.

Microsoft on Lowering the Barriers of Creativity
With XNA Game Studio Express, it is a different approach. It's not just about modding a game that somebody's made; it's about making your own game. I definitely take your point [because] you need some skill to do it. Now I do think we've made it much easier with XNA Game Studio Express than it's ever been before, but when you add our partner products on top—like what we've done with Garage Games—then you actually have systems like Torque GameBuilder (TGB), which is drag and drop game development. You literally drag pieces in and you drop them. And then we have starter kits, so if you just want to mod an experience you can do that... So imagine if you take TGB and load up a pack and there's all the cool animated things—you just drag and drop them in, say what behavior you want and can start playing a game. And we actually licensed that from Garage Games so if you're a member of the Creator's Club in XNA you get that in your subscription.
And XNA is attracting a lot of professionals as well. A lot are doing this in their spare time because they're like, "I've got a great idea and I just want to make a real fun, simple game and I don't get to do that at work anymore." I think what you'll mostly see is lots of smaller games.
The thing that we do at Microsoft is we're a software and services company. We build tools to build software and we build software; that's at our core. We're very passionate about enabling developers and we've been working on things like visual studio for the last ten years... So I am very confident that we provide the very best tools in the industry, and if you talk to developers they will back that up. And we have the best services that we put around it – our consulting services and developer support services. I mean, when I used to do PS2 development I still used Microsoft technologies like for debugging and for the IDE for the compiler because it was the best you could use. It's great for developers that Sony is bringing these new components out, but we've already got that in our SDK. PIX, our profiling tool, is probably one of the most favored tools in the developer industry. So I feel very good [about our tools]. That's why now 3 out of 4 are leading on our platforms because it's just the most productive environment.
It's also questionable that in their keynote they spent about 30 seconds talking about their tools. It's like one slide; they're checking off a box.

The other thing is what we're doing with Game Studio and XNA Express is, no one else is doing in the industry – we are really, truly democratizing game development. 250,000 people have downloaded this, and there's only 20-25 thousand professional developers in the industry. So we're going well beyond that audience. And this is our commitment to the industry, with computer science enrollments being down, high-definition game development budgets rising, people needing more teams... that pipeline has to be filled. We want to make sure that the 15-year-old girls that are thinking about what they want to study, that they have programs where they can get involved in the sciences and gaming. It's an investment for us. The 'community arcade' ... We don't make any money off this. It's part of our responsibility to the industry.
There's nothing free about a $600 console. Once you've spent $600 the online is free, but you still have to spend $600 to get out of the gate, before you have any games.

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Publishers "Scrambling" to Understand the Wii

This is an interesting article about publishers now figuring out that the Wii is a pretty good idea. Well, that's true, but I think they're going to have a lot harder time figuring out how to market and make games for the Wii. Much like US Publishers have had one hell of a time figuring out how to make games and market them for the DS, the Wii is going to prove just as difficult.

Sure all the basic games ought to make it out for the Wii (I'm holding out for hockey on the Wii), they're going to have to try some new stuff. Much like US publishers "don't get" the DS, they're going to take some time to figure out the Wii as well.

Hell, I consider Guitar Hero a prime example of how backward looking most publishers are. It took a new fringe publishing company to make GH happen. Of course they then get bought up by a company looking to extract maximum profit from the franchise, but it's sad that it takes these small forward looking companies to get gamers (and game developers) a chance to try new things.

Try new things. The Wii and DS are the cheapest platforms you can develop for. The risk has never been lower.

Bloomberg: Publishers 'Scrambling' to Get More Titles on Wii
With Nintendo's Wii having sold 3.56 million units in Japan and the U.S., the unique motion-sensing enabled system is already a bona fide success at this early stage in the console wars. While many anticipated the Wii to do well thanks to its positive E3 showing last year and all the hype generated up to its launch, Nintendo's new console has done probably even better than many expected.

According to, publishers were simply taken by surprise, with the exception of a few (like Ubisoft). "Those companies are backtracking," remarked Piper Jaffray analyst Anthony Gikas. "They're going to need to get their best-branded product on that platform. That will take a good nine to 12 months."
While supporting any new console is generally a risky proposition, Ubisoft has believed in the Wii from the very beginning. The French publisher released 7 titles for the Nintendo platform in December and has another 6 games in the pipeline to be released by this June. "It's not really a bet anymore," said Ubisoft's Tony Key, head of marketing in the U.S. "It's a viable system that's going to make us money."

Indeed, games on the Wii cost (on average) far less to develop than on Xbox 360 or PS3, potentially saving publishers millions. Furthermore, according to research firm IDC, publishers will continue to be pressured into supporting the Wii as its install base grows. IDC is predicting that Nintendo will ship 16.1 million Wiis this year, outpacing 9.87 Xbox 360s and 9.1 million PlayStation 3s.

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Corporate Geomorphology Shout Out Located

I don't get much attention in the game media, and I don't really wonder why, but I was recently told that I should check out Next Generation's "GDC: The Absolute Best Sessions" list. It's a small shout out, but a shout out none-the-less, and fun to see out there. No name or anything else linking me to it, but I know who I am! I guess a few other folks know too.

GDC: The Absolute Best Sessions
Mapping Your Corporate Geomorphology
Geology and geography as a metaphor for corporate structure? We’re hooked already.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

MY Games Industry Map?

This particular interview is interesting. I certainly think that yes community is going to play a major component in the future of the game industry. At the same time though there are going to be folks that want a good non-community experience from time to time.

There is also this thing with the release of in many respects just a flashier version of the long existing I'm puzzled about his possessive use of "my" game industry map in the context of his discussion of community.

Overall he's got a lot of interesting things to say, and the connections that enable someone to actually get stuff done. I'll be curious what a year or two can bring.

David Perry: Publishers' Days Are Numbered
My game industry map has proved that to me; the programmer came to me and asked, "How would you like this done?" and I said the obvious, which is a storage database where you put the pins on the map with a search system, give me a category filtering system, country filtering system, and he goes, "Ok" and he coded it... that's actually a bad design, because in a world where you keep adding more and more pins and every pin has to go through Google and that's a very slow system. The more pins we put in the map, the slower it gets. Coming back from the show, they're going to really slow the site down. It's going to be horrific when people start whacking pins in there together, there's going to be thousands of them.
I agree with him [Doug Lowenstein] completely. He said, "Anyone that's a member of the Video Game Voters network put your hand up." I'm a member. I promote the site and have written congress twice. So I completely support him and agree with him 100%. Our industry is really sucking when it comes to supporting such measures. You know when the industry is going to start noticing he's gone, when people don't fight that fight we will lose that battle and he took it to them, like he really was fighting very hard for our industry. It's very easy to bash him. People are bashing him now that he's gone and he can't answer for himself, but the fact is that guy took the most un-fun job in the world in politics and he fought and fought and fought to try to keep our freedom in making games, and I believe very strongly in not censoring games.
No, we need better and better of what's good. We need a fricking killer driving game or a stunning first-person shooter. And if you think of a new genre, you should get a award for the year. You should be the guy standing up at the choice awards. Like, "You just made Guitar Hero and you've made a new genre for us. Thank you very much, that's a fantastic job and you should be applauded for it." It shouldn't be everybody needs to make Guitar Hero or they suck, which is just not cool. We'll end up with a bunch of random junk.

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