Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Last Thoughts

Within the industry itself there has been changes made, but it is even more interesting to look at what old news combines with the new.

At every gaming console's launch, there may be a few consoles released to the public that may have a few bugs to work out. It is the same rule of thumb people use to not buy a car the first year it is released. As it turn's out, the Microsoft XBox 360 has faced many problems that may lead to a recall. Reports have indicated that a large number of the machines are facing technical problems including hard drive failure and overheating. This may lead to a recall on the systems already on sale.

Speaking of launches, the long time running role-playing title, Final Fantasy, is getting ready for its new title, Final Fantasy XII. Set for release in 2006, hopefully in May, the game is doing everything to get gamers hyped for its arrival. They have even created a new drink called "Finaly Fantasy Potion". Referencing to the potions found in the game, this drink according to 1up.com's article is said to contain several mysterious herbs and flavors. They hope to reach a flavor never made before.

And finally, people have already seen video games may be violent. Also, several have asked the law to step in to stop minors from accessing them. Well in Illinois, a judge has overturned the law that prohibited minors from buying violent video games. The ESA has won a court case in the name of the First Amendment to allow minors the right to purchase the games. As the court states, contorl should be put on the parents, not on the state. Now eyes are on California to see how ESA will challenge Governor Schwarzennegger's proposal on banning sales of violent video games to minors.

Thus, what does all this mean? It further echoes my previous post, video games are not what they used to be. More than a business and almost a phenomenon, video games have reached the courts, and are not what they used to be. There is no doubting how much of an impact games have on the American and even global culture. What is doubtful is whether or not it will be positive for the people. There are still some that understand video games may not be suitable for all. Some parents want to abolish the violent ones. There may come a point where a video game goes to far in warping a mind, but in the end they are still at their root entertainment. Digital, virtual, entertainment.

The press is starting to warm up and see what will happen for the holidays. Plus by next marketting quarter, it will be time for the next wave of next-generation consoles and games. It's game over for now for this blog, but it still has a few lives left.

Some Thoughts

When I created this blog, I never realized just how much news revolves around video games. I always knew there were controversies, but I could not have fathomed just how passionate people become over visual interaction.

From individuals such as Jack Thompson, to even gamers that literally died doing what they loved. The chance to work on a blog like this has given me surprises and has kept me on top of my game. (No pun intended.)

I hope to keep this blog going for awhile too. I want to continue pursuing what further news is coming out for video games. And despite the flack video games have been getting hit with, now is a more exciting time than ever to follow the gaming industry. Legislations are in the work for the video games. Also, the new generation gaming-consoles will be here soon. On top of that, with eyes on gamers from all different fronts, now is also a good time to get interested.

Similar to online journalism in general, there is still no sure direction for video games. If all the legislations such as the Senator Hilary Clinton's and Seantor Joe Liberman's proposal to restrict minors access to video games, than it may be bleak. At the same time, with innovations such as Ken Kutaragi's, (creator of the playstation), Playstation 3 being able to run 120 frames per second, it will be hard to even find a televsion that could handle that kind of technology. For better or worse, this will continue to have a big impact on the people and on the culture.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Marketing At Gamers 101 (pt3)

I watched as the media only gave slight coverage to the lack of XBox 360s from their launch. And yet, I also watched as MTV spent an entire week devoted to video games. The general concensus I get is that the mainstream media approaches this new trend with caution, but MTV and their target know that there is something about the timing. As a gamer I asked myself why as well.

After reading all the recent news in video games, I realized I missed something, controversy. Video games as of this year have received more criticism than they ever had before. When games like Mortal Kombat were released in 1992, there was a call to attention over its violence. In 2005 however, laws have been enacted in states like California and courts have reversed rulings such as that in Illinois.

Video games are getting stained with the recent negative images found in games such as "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas". And crusades led by Senator Hilary Clinton and the ever-popular Jack Thompson, still have some life in them. I realized then, MTV markets to a young, "hip" (that is a relative term), audience. But it is also this rebellious generation that gives MTV ratings the numbers. MTV won't say video games are bad, they will praise them. They will not say enjoy the controversy, but they will promote them to attract viewers to see what is the big deal.

Now in all honesty, true gamers do not need to be catered to into buying games. Not even moderate gamers. By the time most channels begin showing video game previews, the gamers have probably seen it many times over from the internet. They do however, need motivation as to why they should give their attention to something say like, MTV. MTV has launched "game-related" shows in hopes of doing so. For example, one such show follows the life of a gamer who's life was ruined by gaming addiction. That is an intereting start, but not quite what I had in mind. Channels such as G4 already devote the entire airtime to video games, but have limited programming. But all the shows featured are of interest to gamers.

In order for MTV to truly accomplish their goal, and capture the gamer's attentin, (and money), they need to reformat the rest of their programming schedule to fit the gamer. Of course that would be ludacris to make such a decision. But the bottom line comes to this, a gamer's attention can not just last a show or a single product. What is the use? Fads die all the time but the gamer's trend has existed since Ralph Baer invented pong.

Corporate America, if you really want our money and time, you must raise the bar to fit the gamer's mindset. And quite frankly, it is gamers/nerds that have such a big influence right now in America. Isn't that right Mr. Bill Gates?

Marketing At Gamers 101 (pt 2)

Pt 2: Marketing of Gamers 101

We’ve seen now one aim the corporations have for reaching out to gamers. There is a lot of money to be made in the gaming industry. The big businesses see that gamers have money and will spend it. If the gamer already spends literally thousands of dollars, sometimes more, on gaming, surely the must spend the rest of their money and time elsewhere.

Here’s another look of why the gamers are such a popular target. The word nerd, dork, geek, and etcetera, implies the person has some knowledge of electronics and technology. Gamers, especially the hardcore, thoroughly understand technology. They know how to build computers, they know how to use the internet and its frontiers, and, they know even more than what a lot of the corporations know. To advertisers, they see then the gamers are not only good at what they do, they have pretty good knowledge as well.

Advertising is truly effective when the consumer knows what is being advertised. Gamers for the most part, see an advertisement and can instantly decide to kiss or diss the product. Not only that, but they have the capability to spread their opinions very quickly through cyber space.

The average student, both high school and college, is very capable of using the internet. The more frequent users however, are more likely to spread their views and opinions through forums, blogs, and chats. Plus, as stated by one of Sony Electronic*…. (SCEA) representatives, the target audience age is 19.

By now, one wonders how does this tie in with the advertisers. Simply put, if advertisers can get the gamer’s attention, gamers will do the advertising for them. The best example that can be given are advertisements for video games. A commercial for a very popular game can make or break its sales. Some games such as Electronic Arts (EA) Madden Football series or Konami’s Metal Gear Solid already have such a name, the gamer’s do all the advertising. Less money then is needed for the advertisers to invest in spread a name. Less investment plus more sales by consumers is a double win then.
Now it can be said that the coprporations see gamers are young, they are knowledgeable, and they have money. They are social in one aspect or another, and will not only make them money but save them money. They only question left, as even Gamespot.com’s writers ask, why now?

Friday, November 18, 2005

Marketing At Gamers 101 (pt1)

We all know them. We all love them. Video games have always been a part of not just American culture, but of a global spectrum. Even though there are those that fall under "the gamer" scope, it is rare that someone will say "No I'd rather not play." It's a social ice breaker, it's a party pleaser, and really it's just interactive televsion. And yet, marketting campaigns and the press have never really paid attention to the gamer. Passed off as nerds and dorks before, marketting has suddenly flushed their attention to the gamer. Let us find out why.

Money is a huge influence for marketting. It is the lifeblood of the capitalistc corporate America. Take into consideration, how much video games cost. When the Playstaion X, or PS1 video game console was orignially released in 1995, it released for $299. Add an extra controller, and memory cards to save games, oh and the games themselves, an inital purchase could easily go beyond $400. That was in 1995. Today, it has become much more expensive. The average "New" game costs about $50. Now, let us say the game buys just one game a month. That means in one year, he has spent $600 on just the video games. And that is just the game, sometimes strategy guides are a good investment to thoroughly enjoy a game. These run about $15 or more. Most gamers go beyond console games as well, and play Pesonal Computer (PC) games.

A computer can run the range of $600 to as high as even $4,500. The prices seem steep, but they would not be placed unless someone could, or would, buy it. Computer games have similar prices to the console games, if not more expensive. Some new games that come with collector's editions or packages cost as high as $80. The last part to add here is subscription fees. Online gaming, the greatest revenue for gaming companies today, charge monthly fees to play their games and access their servers. The average price here is $15 a month.

Now that the numbers are up, let's add them up. Say the casual gamer bought one console per generation. For example he has bought both the PS1 and the PS2. And, he bought about ten games total. That is five games per console. Plus, he has friends, so throw in an extra controller for both. With other accessores, this is the formula. $300 (ps1 tag price) + $300 (ps2 tag price) + $500 (10 games) + $100 (accessories) = $1200. That's not a bad number. But, multiply that by the millions of consumers, and we have the revenue companies love.

Take this a step further, to include PC games. And we'll keep things on the low side of the bracket. $600 (inexpensive PC) + $50 (1 game) + 15/month (subscription). In one month, that is $665. Add that to the previous sum we had of the average gamer, and you get $1865. If he does not buy anything else for awhile, the subscription alone will push him over $2000 in less than a year. Keep in mind, this is keeping things on the low end.

It wouldn't take much more math to show, that if a hardcore gamer spent money updating his library and equipment, that number will go much higher. So the bottom line, marketting has seen games have and will spend money.

(this ends part 1)

Games Don't Rot Your Brain After All

It is interesting how companies continuously work for more variety and innovations in their gadgets. Sony's Playstation Portable (PSP), has had moderate success with sales and popularity. But a new program via Sony's website has given it an unexpected turn. Dubbed "e-EnglishGym Portable ", English lessons are now available for download at $1 per scene, or $5 to $10 for a series of scenes. 1up.com's report indicates that there are over 200 scenes for download. With this new idea, could it be the PSP will aim for more educational uses? Perhaps even a downloadable math tutor would be nice.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A Revolution is Coming

A very brief report has indicated that the Nintendo Revolution has a release scheudle for early next year. There are not too many details nor are there a number of games listed. But once I found out more, I will post more on this. As far as next-generation consoles go, this means XBox 360 will have the earliest release of this year, the Nintendo Revolution second, and the PS3 scheduled for late spring.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Gamer Dies From Addiction

Taken from 1up.com's News section:
What you are looking at is an online funeral for a girl who lost her life. The cause of death, as reported from Yahoo! News China, is continuous days spent playing the online game "World of Warcraft". 1up.com wrote the same, and has a link to an English report.
It is not surprising several people claimed the story not to be true. Whether it is or not, this is not the first report of a gamer losing their life. About a few months ago, another teenager lost his life playing online games at his computer for over 50 hours straight. The report from TGN, (Thai TV Global Network) indicates that his lack of sleep and nourishment eventually caused his body to just tire out, and shut down.
In the case of this girl from China, nicknamed "Snowly" in game, the English reports states she was very tired lately, and was preparing for a difficult segment in the game. Her official cause of death is not known, but I believe it is similar to what happened to the previous gamer.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Fast Fights, Cruddy Camera

Every year Atari wishes to release a Dragonball Z game. Ever since Dragonball Z Budokai, each title after had improvements with regard to gameplay, graphics, and overall fun. The newest Drgaonball game, "Dragonball Z: Tenkaichi", is unique, but so unique it takes awhile to get used to. This game is not called Budokai for a reason.

Let's start with the basics. The graphics are good for a Dragonball title. Real good. The animation never sputters no matter how intense the fighting gets, and the chracters re looking like their television counterparts. The only thing that detracts from the great graphics are the strange rainbow-colored boundaries that highlight when a player reaches the stage boundary. Oh, but the graphics do now have a fully 3d engine. Fans of the hit show can now fly, dash, swim to anywhere on the map they desire. But, the map is pretty tiny. In a scale model, they are about the size of a city block.

The sound effects have not changed much. The usual explosions and clashes are there. The same sound we all know and love of a mountain collapsing via energy blast is nice to have. My only complaint for sound is the constant narration by Goku on the title screen. I can read the subtitles Goku, I can tell what "Dueling mode" means and don't need it to be read aloud every, single time I highlight it. Since this is a FUNimation show, all the original voice actors are there playing their characters. So at lesat it is nice to hear familiar voices.

Now, a fighting game is not complete with their version of control. And the controls here are a little too strange. The basic four PS2 buttons now only have "hit, dash, energy attack, and block." This leads to less combos, but a little more direct control in your character. Also, players can now ascend and descend to fly, and chase after their opponent. Again simple is good, but it becomes increasingly hard at times to lock on to your opponent. There is a lock-on button, but that does not always work to your advantage. And lastly, the special, big, moves, are way too easy to perform. They are easily dodged as well. Two buttons and boom, there's a big crater on the planet.

This game is good overall, and a good concept, but needs serious tweaking. The most frustrating feature by far comes from the wonky camera angles. The camera stays behind your character, and will follow his view for the most part. This makes things really hard to find someone in duel mode. Why? Because in two-player mode, it becomes split screen, so the view becomes very narrowed. "Tenkaichi" has really opened up what DBZ should have been, a free-for-all brawl in a 3d world. Yet, with such a strange camera angle, and a simple but annoying fighting system, its not the furious fighter that was Budokai. Maybe with time, the fetaures and tons of characters might make the game worth while.

Overall so far: B-

Friday, October 28, 2005

Lightning Strikes Twice All Right

I was looking forward to Video Games Live (VGL) coming to Boston. It was the first concert of its kind. A live symphony would perform the scores of popular video games to an array of lights, lasers, video footage, and stage performances. CNN, the LA Times, and other press members were present for the inaugral show in Hollywood, California and gave rave reviews. Even Elijah Wood, Stan Lee, and icons of the industry showed up. However, as of October 25th, VGL has cancelled their tour for this season.

"Due to circumstances beyond our control, Video Games Live will not be playing any of the previously scheduled shows," said Becky Young, media director of VGL, "with the exception of Seattle and Vancouver on October 29 and October 30. Furthermore, plans are being made for additional shows in specific markets across North America for 2006."

While the reaction remains mixed, it remains to be seen how long before the next tour comes around. According to their postings, this is the second time the tour has been cancelled. The original tour was cancelled in order to raise more money for a bigger tour. This second tour was their project, and has now been cancelled.