Oct 062010
 

A few sites covered the talk I gave on John Donham’s behalf here at GDC Online.

I do think Gamespot commenters interpret my little dig at SWTOR a bit too negatively — it wasn’t a dis but rather a gentle dig, considering that most of the team leaders there are good friends, and one of them was in the front row. :)

The slides are actually John’s to post, so I won’t do so here unless he tells me to, but Tami’s liveblog actuall captures the specific slides rather well.

Game talkOne BIIIiiiillion

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Oct 012010
 

There are now one billion registered virtual world accounts, according to KZero, with 350m of them gained in the last twelve months.

More telling is the areas in which the growth has come. Around half that billion is in kids’ worlds (ages 10-15), which now boast many worlds over 10m users, including some shockingly large figures like Stardoll at 69m, Girl Sense at 18m, GoSupermodel at 18m, Neopets at 63m, and Club Penguin at 47m.

Universe chart Q3 2010: 10 to 15 year olds | KZERO – Blog.

The 15-25 bracket has the monster Habbo of course, at 175m registered. KZero picks this segment as the one to watch in terms of innovation. Meanwhile, worlds for ages 25+ have not seen nearly the same level of growth, but still have basically doubled in total registrations since Q1 2009.

Game talkDigital game downloads pull ahead of retail

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Sep 202010
 

NPD released a report today saying that the PC gaming market is now 58% download sales, though only 43% of revenue — mostly because retail prices are higher. Both retail and download sales are dropping though — revenue is down 21% and unit sales down 14% over the last year.

Why? Well,

“The overall decline of PC games when combining sales via both digital downloads and physical retail sales is impacted by the expansion of social-network gaming as well as the continued expansion of free game options.” NPD analyst Anita Frazier said…

Digital game downloads beat retail store sales | Gaming and Culture – CNET News

Interestingly, the top five digital retailers for AAA show the power of using connectivity in a strong fashion: Steam’s on top of the list, and they by default install a startup-launching login widget; two of the top five are Blizzard and worldofwarcraft.com; and the other top five entries are EA.com and Direct2Drive.com. (The list of casual downloadable leaders is quite different).

Retail has been pushing used game sales for quite a while in order to drive revenue, of course, which by and large game publishers have not liked much (supposedly last year John Riccitello of EA compared used game sales to piracy). It wasn’t very long ago that Best Buy announced they were moving over to that model.

The downside to this may be that used game sales may start running into legal issues, if the battle around shrinkwrap licenses and first-sale doctrine for software continues the path of the recent 9th Circuit Court decision — basically, it said that software publishers can indeed say that you don’t own software, but instead just license it; and therefore can block you from resale.

All in all, the shift to a fully digital future is well underway, and I would expect retail revenues to keep declining. Some are happy about it, such as this guy:

And why not? Digital music can be played on any device. Electronic books can go anywhere the user goes. And streaming movies on demand is far more convenient than mailing discs back and forth.

- “The end of software ownership–and why to smile”, CNet

Others will be less sanguine about the idea that their investments can be remotely deactivated, have curtailed legal (and illegal) uses, or simply obsolesce out of being usable when the licensing authority shuts down its servers.

Game talkGameBreakr interview

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Mar 142010
 

While at GDC I did an interview with Gary Gannon of GameBreakr, and it’s now up on the site as two video clips. They were posted up with Justin.tv, and I can’t figure out how to embed them here… topics discussed include why core gamers should be excited about social games, where do AAA MMOs sit, and trends at GDC like 3d displays. But the link lets you watch them both back to back — it’s about 20 minutes worth of me blathering on.

Edit: here’s the vids!

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Game talkGarriott goes to social games

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Feb 172010
 

Portalarium.

The highlights:

  • A plugin to allow deploying games written as standalone titles. Torque2d is referenced as the tech for the first title, a poker game.
  • A virtual world hub called CenterPort, with a “semi-3d world”, minigames, ad-driven quests, housing, and microtransactions.
  • A social network. It looks like this will be tied into the OpenPlay network, which is a separate endeavor by other well-known ex-Originites that tries to develop an industry standard for social play data portability.

The requirement for a plugin will have all the same barriers all the other plugin efforts do, of course. (Unity is doing well, but it is having to fight hard for every user). One big example — it’s Windows only right now.

This is a play for anticipating the curve on the social gaming market lifecycle. The bet being made is that social gamers will ask for greater sophistication over time. It’s a good bet that this trend is valid — even “simple farming games” like the new sequel to Happy Farm feature farming, apartment decorating, and a central town; and Island Paradise has merged in a cooking game… showing that greater complexity is well on the way.

That said, the Facebook game explosion — social gaming in general — is more a phenomenon of distribution than it is one of game design or technology. The users tend to be older women, and not that technologically sophisticated.  Social gamers don’t care what technology you use. They only care how long the loading time was and whether it worked perfectly on the first try.

So the plugin choice may be banking on the wrong aspect of the trend. You don’t need a better rendering engine to make richer games.

Read more about Portalarium at this VentureBeat article.

Game talkVirtual Goods presentations

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Oct 302009
 

Slideshows from the Virtual Goods Summit are starting to pop up, and here two that I found so far:

Virtual Goods: Why & How They Work by Amy Jo Kim, all about them motivations behind virtual goods purchases.

A nicely detailed deck by William Grosso of LiveGamer on Managing a Virtual Economy that has plenty of concrete advice.

Game talkVideo Games Are Dead video

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Aug 102009
 

The conclusion is “no” by the way. :) But the video is very worth watching anyway, and I say that not just because I am in it — along with a host of game industry luminaries, I hasten to add. I sat for this interview back at GDC, actually, and it is kind of amazing how quickly things have evolved even over those few months.

Freefalling sales. Skyrocketing unemployment. Studios tanking left and right. Between the twin pressures of one of the worst recessions in modern history and a fundamental shift in the way today’s fans consume interactive entertainment, the PC and video game business is quickly coming up short on extra lives. As Season 2 of Players Only opens, we connect with the industry’s biggest names to cast aside the field’s “recession-proof” image and explore how the very fabric of gaming as we know it has changed. Tune in for the first of a special two-part series as we ask: Is it ‘game over’ for thousands of developers and publishers – and millions of fans – worldwide?

– Video Games Are Dead – Part 1 – Players Only – Digital Trends Videos.

Game talkGreat article on indie biz

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Aug 042009
 

Jeff Ward has a great article on Gamasutra about the viability of the indie scene these days, which ties right back into the recent blog post on new bosses and old bosses. He analyzes iPhone, XBLA, and PC markets, as well as the alternative funding model of getting investors in advance for a title.

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